South Sydney Rabbitohs slam NRL in row over plum fixture

Former top Super League official Blake Solly has criticised the NRL for denying his club a bumper pay day next month.

Solly, Super League general manager between 2014 and early 2016, is now chief executive of South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The Bunnies face arch-rivals Sydney Roosters in a plum NRL final-round clash on Friday week, September 2.

The eagerly-awaited match-up will be at the Allianz (Sydney Football) Stadium at Moore Park, which has undergone a £480 million rebuild funded by the government of New South Wales.

In a double-header, it will be preceded by an NRL Women’s meeting between the Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons. 

Such is the interest, it is expected to generate gate takings of at least £580,000. 

And the Roosters will enjoy hosting rights – and the crowd receipts – at the multi-use venue where they will be major tenants alongside the New South Wales Waratahs rugby union team and football’s Sydney FC of the A-League.

But the Bunnies want to return from the Accor (Sydney Olympic) Stadium, their base for 16 years and where they are contracted to play the bulk of their games, to their spiritual Moore Park home, 13 miles to the East, from next season, and are locked in a battle with the NSW Government to be allowed to do so.

And in addition, the club insist it is they, rather than the Roosters, who should be christening the redeveloped venue under a long-standing scheduling agreement in place with the NRL involving fixtures between the pair.

“Historically, the policy has been whichever club hosts the first game one year hosts the second game the following year,” said Solly.

“Because we hosted the first game last year, we were meant to host the second this year.

“But the NRL decided to give the Roosters the second game again, and we were given the explanation at the time that they were going to be the anchor tenant at the Allianz Stadium.

“But that’s never been done before – nor is it acceptable. We voiced our frustrations to (NRL chief executive) Andrew Abdo at the time.

“We should remember the Allianz Stadium is not the Roosters’ venue – it is the New South Wales taxpayers’ venue.”

While under contract to continue playing at the Accor Stadium, Souths argue they can leave because the NSW government has backtracked on plans to upgrade that venue, saying there was a need to channel resources towards Covid and flood relief.

Meanwhile Abdo insists there was no “contractual obligation” for the NRL to rotate the order of home games for the historic rivals, and said Covid and the relocation of the competition last year had caused disruption with all elements of this season’s fixture list.

He added: “The Roosters have been significantly disadvantaged (in recent years). Last year, the Rabbitohs got their home fixture in front of a crowd in New South Wales. The Roosters’ home game was played in Brisbane.

“Both clubs were interested in playing their home fixture at the new stadium.

“The Roosters have been the anchor tenant at the Allianz Stadium for a long period of time and that was taken into account.

“Playing the early-round fixture at home is also a financially good return for clubs.”

The NRL has confirmed this year’s Saturday, October 2 Grand Final will remain in Sydney at Accor Stadium.

But league chiefs say they will consider “all options” for future seasons, including rotating the money-spinning showpiece event between NSW and Queensland and other venues that may want to bid to host the event.

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