Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak has come in the worst possible finals series for the NRL, and will cost them as many as 50,000 fans at grounds this weekend.
The league’s enforced move to Queensland will be felt more than ever in this weekend’s all-Sydney semi-finals, with games played 1,750km away in Mackay.
A maximum of just 12,000 fans will fit into BB Print Stadium for Manly and the Sydney Roosters on Friday night, as well as the western Sydney derby between Penrith and Parramatta on Saturday.
Given Penrith have sold out every game they have hosted in the past 18 months as well as the Eels’ big finals crowds, the game would likely have drawn at least 50,000 at ANZ Stadium.
Manly and the Roosters would also probably have brought in around 25,000 at the SCG, based on crowd figures from their last finals clash in 2013.
Even at an average of around $40 per ticket, the drop in crowds has the potential to cost the league around $2 million.
A similar situation could also arise in week three of the finals, where the Roosters could meet South Sydney in a preliminary final.
While a bigger crowd would be expected than the 5,136 that watched them at Suncorp Stadium last month, it would go nowhere near meeting the 52,000 who attended in their last ANZ Stadium finals match.
In normal circumstances, Sydney would have seven finals matches this season, the most of any year since 2014.
Up to five of those would have also been all-Sydney affairs, again the most in seven years in another blow to the city’s rugby league fans.
A similar situation has also hit the AFL, who are now in the build up to their second straight all-Victoria grand final after none in the eight years before 2020.