South Sydney fans to decide the club’s home ground
South Sydney have sent their 30,000 members and sponsors a detailed survey asking where the Rabbitohs should play home matches - either at ANZ Stadium, Bankwest Stadium or the newly built Sydney Football Stadium.
Titled 'What's Your Stadium of Choice', the referendum even questions whether members and fans would prefer five matches each season at two venues. Souths will collate the feedback before revealing the results in a fortnight.
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The Rabbitohs have entered into discussions about a future home with the NSW Government, which owns all three of the venues. Souths officials will use the information from members when seeking advice and guidance from Government authorities.
If the Government pushes Souths toward one venue while fans vote for another, the club will have sensitive issues to overcome. Rabbitohs management was a huge supporter of the NSW Government's $1.6 billion stadia strategy.
Souths have a deal with ANZ Stadium until 2030 but that was signed under the proviso the arena would be redeveloped, a plan which has now been abandoned through COVID-19.
While Souths have a deal with ANZ Stadium, it is primarily with the arena's owners, the NSW Government. The NRL is also aware which stadiums best suit the game's broadcasters.
One survey question asks: In light of the Government announcing the cancellation of the ANZ Stadium redevelopment, which of the following stadiums are you most likely to attend Rabbitohs games?
A: ANZ Stadium/Sydney Olympic Park.
B: Bankwest Stadium.
C: A mix between Sydney Football Stadium and Bankwest Stadium.
E: Sydney Football Stadium/Moore Park (upon completion in 2023).
Souths won't reconsider their home ground position should members vote to remain at ANZ Stadium. The Rabbitohs would be open for the Government and NRL to suggest which home ground the club should play.
The club's preference is to play at one home ground along with one match each season on the Central Coast and Sunshine Coast. The Rabbitohs moved to ANZ Stadium in 2006, a move which helped rescue the club from financial peril.
"We've been working with the NRL and NSW Government on their stadium strategy for five years. Clearly as a result of the pandemic they have had to change that strategy and the refurbishment of ANZ Stadium won't go ahead," said Souths chief executive, Blake Solly.
"So we thought it was really important that we got the views of members and sponsors as to where they want our games to be played so when we do sit down with Government and the NRL, to understand where our situation is after this season, we can speak with the views of our members and sponsors, our most valued partners.
"We were always supportive of ANZ being refurbished and one of the reasons we did the long-term deal there was based on that refurbishment."
Asked to predict the survey results, Solly said: "I'm not really sure what the members will do. They have clearly become attached to ANZ Stadium over the years, a stadium where we have had some great success, where we won the 2014 premiership.
"But, likewise, they may want the best possible experience on a match day and with two new stadiums receiving all the investment (SFS and Bankwest) they may want that match day experience to be improved by going to a new stadium."
Souths have a massive following in their Redfern heartland area but also have strong support bases in western Sydney, south-western Sydney and the NSW Central Coast. The Allianz Stadium refurbishment is expected to be completed by October, 2022.
The survey reads: "With the NRL Season now restarted and life slowly going back towards normality, we as a club are now seeking your feedback as a valued Member regarding our home stadium for the 2021 season.
"As you may have been aware, there were plans to begin a redevelopment of ANZ Stadium later this year, however these plans have now been cancelled by the NSW State Government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which leaves the club and its Members with a decision as to where we play our home games in the future.
"We would love to hear from you with feedback on where you would like us to play our future games. The options are to remain at ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park which has been our home ground since 2006; or the new Bankwest Stadium at Parramatta where we have and will play a number of home games throughout the 2020 season; or the new Sydney Football/Allianz Stadium upon its completion in 2023.
"We want to join with you in making a decision that benefits you, our members, and the Club; so we would like your feedback to help us gauge the members' thoughts on the road ahead."
Originally published as South Sydney fans to decide the club's home ground