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NRL eyes future grand finals on the move

The NRL is eyeing off a Super Bowl-style bidding war for the grand final each season after signing only a one-year deal to keep the showpiece event in Sydney in 2022.

NRL bosses ended four months of uncertainty over the October 2 event on Thursday, taking up a last-ditch bid from NSW to retain the match at Accor Stadium rather than move it to Queensland.

But the matter is hardly over in the long term.

A 2018 agreement for the match to be played in Sydney each season until 2042 is now effectively scrapped, after the NRL accused the NSW Government reneging on stadium upgrades.

It means the league will consider taking the match elsewhere in future, potentially in the style of a best-bidder process such as in the NFL.

“This (deal) is only for one year,” ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said.

“Negotiations will recommence for future grand finals. It’s really now put it on the table for the future.

“It could go anywhere.

“It hasn’t been (that way) before because we were hoping that we’d have an exclusive arrangement for the NSW government.

“Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. So it opens the door for a Super Bowl-type concept or who can give us the best deal for the game.”

The decision to award NSW the 2022 grand final came after Queensland appeared to be in the box seat as late as Wednesday night.

At that point the NRL would have been better off financially playing at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium before a late revised offer came in from NSW.

V’landys indicated Queensland would be well-placed to host some deciders in the future with the current NSW deal now gone.

“You’ve got to remember we do have four teams in Queensland,” he said.

“If you pro rata it, one-in-four-years we should go to Queensland. We have the opportunity to look at that now.”

Any such move would likely be opposed by the NSW Government, who insisted on Thursday the long-term deal could be saved and discussions would continue.

The 2018 deal between the government and NRL had been contingent on the $800 million rebuild of Accor Stadium, before an agreement in 2020 that much of that money would be shifted to Sydney suburban grounds.

Sports minister Alister Henskens was quick to point out on Thursday that there was bipartisan support on the decision to push back suburban ground upgrades, ahead of next year’s election.

Outright peace between the NRL and NSW Government still looks some way from being achieved as the league pushes its case of community benefits and financial returns from upgrades.

V’landys on Thursday labelled premier Dominic Perrottet a “good bloke”, but said he would “not have a bet with him because if you win he won’t pay you”.

The ARLC chairman is still furious that the government said flood relief efforts had prompted the change in position on suburban grounds, baulking at suggestions the NRL was asking too much from the government.

“Enough is enough when you honour your deal,” V’landys said.

“”We don’t want to be pitted against the flood victims. I think that’s not appropriate. We’re the first ones that want to help the flood victims.

“The NSW Government has $123 billion infrastructure spend. Our (deal) was $300 million.

“It’s hardly a drop in the bucket. It’s not even a rounding error. So to say that they needed it for the flood victims is a little bit rich.”

V’landys argued that the Allianz Stadium rebuild and centres of excellence for clubs were not adequate in making up for the initial agreement.

“There was a deal on the table, there was an agreement,” V’landys said.

“The $1 billion spent next door (at Allianz), we are the minority tenants. It proves that it is not a rugby league oval, it is actually a soccer and rugby union ground.”

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