Blake Solly's open letter about the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium

Dear Members,

I hope you are well and looking forward to Saturday night’s game against the Panthers. It is Members Appreciation Round at ANZ Stadium, and a 5:30pm kick off - and with the team keen to get back into the winner’s circle I hope to see many of you there.

I’m writing to you regarding our home ground, ANZ Stadium. Today, the New South Wales government announced that work on the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium is scheduled to begin after the Sydney State of Origin match next season.

As a Club, we are very excited about the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium.   We believe this work will finally convert ANZ Stadium into a state-of-the-art, world class, and rectangular venue - providing you, our Members and supporters, with a game day experience that is the best in the NRL and across all codes in Australia.

It is important to congratulate the NSW Government on this decision – as a state and sport we were at risk of falling well behind other cities in Australia who have invested in sporting infrastructure. Those of you that have attended matches at Optus Stadium, AAMI Park or Bankwest Stadium will have noticed how quickly the experience on a match day is being improved.  Once this redevelopment is completed, Sydney will have three stadiums built specifically for Rugby League, giving our Members and fans the match day experience they deserve. 

This redevelopment period does however come with some logistical challenges for the Club and in turn you, our Members.  There will be some change to home ground venues, seating and Member services during the 2020 season and beyond.  From my conversations with you and our ‘Ask the Bosses’ Q & A two weeks ago, I know you will have questions about the Club’s position. I have tried to answer many of them below, but if you have any further questions or comments, I am always happy to engage with you and respond.  Please feel free to email your queries to membership@rabbitohs.com.au.

Will we play at ANZ Stadium at all in 2020?

To create as little disruption to our Members and their regular seating, we will be lobbying the NRL to provide us with as many home games at ANZ Stadium in the first 15 rounds of the 2020 season as possible. We know you like to sit in your allocated seats at ANZ Stadium, with your family and friends around you, supporting the team in the company of other passionate Members. We will be doing everything we can to ensure that it remains that way for the majority of home games in 2020.

What happens next season when the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium starts?

The timing of the commencement of works means that all tenants of ANZ Stadium need to find a new home ground after approximately round 15 of the 2020 season.  For the final rounds of the 2020 season we will need to play home games at an alternate stadium, or stadia, depending on the final 2020 NRL Draw.

We will therefore play any remaining Sydney home games over those final seven rounds at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, just a short distance from ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park. We will again be pushing for the first home game at Bankwest Stadium to be a blockbuster - to kick off our new tenancy with a massive crowd, and the unique atmosphere our Rabbitohs Members and fans create.

We will also be requesting the NRL schedule our regional home games on the Sunshine Coast and Central Coast, in the back end of the season when ANZ Stadium is unavailable.

Will we get a chance to farewell ANZ Stadium with a big game?

ANZ Stadium has been our home since 2006, and the scene of our most recent Premiership victory in 2014. As the scene of so many proud victories and moments that are central to the recent history of the Rabbitohs, we believe it is important to celebrate these before the stadium is redeveloped. On that basis we will also request the NRL schedule our final home game at ANZ Stadium as a blockbuster match so we can farewell and celebrate our home ground in style.

When will ANZ Stadium be available for our home games again?

It is proposed that ANZ Stadium will be ready for the start of the 2023 season.  We envisage that we will return to the newly redeveloped ANZ Stadium as our home ground, in what will be one of the world’s great Rugby League stadiums.

Where will we play in 2021 and 2022?

We will play our Sydney home matches for the 2021 and 2022 seasons at Bankwest Stadium. We will continue to take a maximum of three home matches each season to regional venues.

Why don’t we play at the Sydney Cricket Ground whilst ANZ is being redeveloped?

Considering the arrangements the current tenants of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust have, we do not believe that more NRL matches at the SCG is good for the Rabbitohs or the sport. As the number of hirers at the SCG has increased, so have the limitations around the scheduling of matches and access to the ground itself.

What will Bankwest Stadium be like for our matches?

Our Membership team is already working on this project in anticipation of the move. We are confident, with the support of VenuesLive, that we can deliver a seamless transition of home venues until the expected return to ANZ Stadium in 2023. We have a great relationship with the team at VenuesLive, led by Daryl Kerry, who manage both ANZ Stadium and Bankwest Stadium. They have committed to doing everything they can to accommodate our Members in the style to which they have become accustomed. 

Will the Rabbitohs have some input into the design of the new ANZ Stadium?

The team at VenuesLive, have always looked after the Rabbitohs and we look forward to working closely with them on this project. The NSW Government have confirmed that the NRL and tenants at ANZ Stadium will have an opportunity to have input into the design of the redeveloped ANZ Stadium. We’re looking forward to providing feedback to ensure that the redeveloped ANZ Stadium is the best possible home venue for the Rabbitohs players, staff, sponsors and Members.

What will happen to my reserved seat at ANZ Stadium when the redevelopment is complete?

We will be ensuring that our current Ticketed Members who renew for seasons 2020 and onwards get a similar seating position as they have now at ANZ Stadium. It will be a big job, but we owe it to you, our Members, to ensure you have as little disruption to your seating as possible.

I understand that today’s announcement will create, and continue to create, many questions for our Members over the coming months. The opportunity to be part of a redeveloped and world-class ANZ Stadium is truly exciting, but there will be some logistical challenges to confront along the way. However please be assured we’re committed to communicating with you every step of the way, and delivering a home stadium that is loved by all Rabbitohs players, staff, sponsors and Members.  

I am sure you are as excited about the second half of the 2019 season as I am, and everyone at the Club is looking forward to cheering on the team alongside you as we head towards the Finals Series.

Up the Rabbitohs!

Blake Solly
Chief Executive Officer
South Sydney Rabbitohs