Minns will end NRL stadium splurge insanity or he won’t last long

Stop it, please! It is just too delicious.

No sooner has Chris Minns been sworn in as premier than the usual suspects – Manly Sea Eagles, Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers, supported by the NRL – demand that his government pay for new boutique stadiums to be built at taxpayer expense as key infrastructure for their non-tax-paying sporting businesses.

The first answer from the Minns government can be simply boiled down.

It wasn’t even “Yeah, nah.”

It was more along the lines of “Nup.”

And the response from those on the side of #StadiumSplurgeII?

Outrage! Sword-rattling!

Friends, this will go on for some time. But the NRL needs to get their heads around it: The days of the NSW government being bullied by them into writing huge cheques to build them new stadiums are over.

I disclose Premier Minns as a friend, but who can say he didn’t nail it?

“I’d love to do that,” he told the Today show on Wednesday morning, regarding building new boutique stadiums.

Premier Chris Minns was officially sworn in by NSW Governor Margaret Beazley this week.Credit:AAP

“But we [can’t], when you consider the $200 billion worth of debt in NSW. And we’ve got urgent responsibilities for schools and hospitals. They’ve got to be our priority. That’s why we were elected on Saturday and my message to the people of NSW is that’s got to be the priority for the incoming government.”

Yup. Other priorities – the very priorities that are the stuff of state governments, reducing debt, delivering great hospitals and public schools.

Those accusing him of reneging on promises are wrong. For starters, he always made clear those were his priorities, noting to the Herald in the election campaign just how far investment in schools had fallen behind: “Across NSW there are 5000 demountables. The government has had 12 years to fix this infrastructure backlog.”

Seriously, who thinks new rugby league stadiums should come in ahead of replacing demountables, some of which have been there for decades? Or properly paying front-line nurses and getting better hospitals, when it comes to that.

Minns was equally upfront on the issue when asked by Roy Masters a couple of weeks ago, refusing to commit to more money for stadiums. Instead he said, what money his government did have for sport would go to grassroots, and not big business sports – precisely as your humble correspondent has been advocating for the past six years.

“NSW Labor has committed to increasing the funding …” Minns told Masters, “to help end the chronic underfunding of community sport in NSW. A November 2022 report from Sport NSW found community sport organisations are still receiving the same level of funding today as they were when Sydney staged the Olympics in 2000 – over two decades ago.”

To be fair to the outgoing government, going into this election campaign then-premier Dominic Perrottet – who, as treasurer, had been the primary voice within the Berejiklian government against the madness of #StadiumSplurge – had also read the writing on the wall and pulled out of building the boutique NRL stadiums, last August. And his sports minister, Alister Henskens, was on board, telling Masters that while the Perrottet government had put a lot of money into sporting infrastructure, “following recent natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is appropriate that further investment in stadia is staged.”

Got it?

Penrith are crying out for a new stadium.Credit:Getty Images

Both the Perrottet government and the Minns opposition had said going into this election that the gig was up, that sanity was going to prevail.

And now the NRL clubs say we want a return to insanity?


So, will the new Penrith stadium go ahead?

That remains to be seen. But when the smoke clears, I would judge it unlikely. Putting at least $300 million towards knocking down an existing stadium to provide a new one at taxpayers’ expense for the use of one of the richest pokie palaces in the southern hemisphere was always insane. It only ever made sense, politically, as an attempt to ensure that the erstwhile sports minister Stuart Ayres won his marginal seat of Penrith.

It was effectively, “Vote for me, and we will get a shiny new stadium for the Panthers at the taxpayers’ expense.”

Well, Ayres lost to the ALP’s Karen McKeown who was always upfront that she didn’t agree with the building of the new stadium. And she won, handsomely.

So what is the remaining case for building the Penrith stadium?

There may be a legal one, depending on where the contracts are up to, but there certainly isn’t a moral or political one.

Against all this, the NRL clubs will scream long and loud, closely followed by thunderous editorials in the supportive press, with lots of fist-shaking thrown in for free. There will be the usual threats to take the NRL grand final to Brisbane.

But all of that squealing is just an amusing bonus. It will change nowt.

The game has changed. There is a new government who came to power in part because of widespread public disgust over pork-barrelling. I would maintain that dropping hundreds of millions on a new stadium at Penrith – because, as I’ve also noted, the figure will certainly blow out – is precisely that, but don’t get me started.
In any case, what I think and what you think from this point doesn’t really count.

It was what the people of NSW thought on Saturday that is operative here, and they voted in a new government that had come in on a specific promise of no more stadium splurge.

They will keep to that, and will be bloody well held to account if they don’t.

News, results and expert analysis from the weekend of sport sent every Monday. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article