SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys and National Rugby League Acting Chief Executive Andrew Abdo arrive a NRL press conference at Rugby League Central on September 03, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The NRL, and the clubs that populate it, showed ample flexibility in 2020 and 2021 to manoeuvre through fixture obstacles amidst the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, many clubs will now be faced with another set of problems as numerous teams are set to be displaced for an extended period of time as a result of the scheduling of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

According to the Herald, FIFA will play games at Accor Stadium, Sydney Football Stadium, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and Melbourne’s AAMI Park for up to nine weeks, in blocks from June to August next year.

The scheduling of the tournament within these venues will displace the Sydney Roosters, Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Brisbane Broncos, Redcliffe Dolphins and Melbourne Storm, for periods of time.

However, the Wests Tigers will also be affected as Leichardt Oval will serve as a training ground for the tournament.

FIFA will reportedly take over the listed venues four weeks prior to the first games, with some stadiums hosting fixtures for up to nine weeks after this initial period.

2020 State of Origin Media Opportunity
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 27: NRL CEO Andrew Abdo speaks to the media during a State of Origin media opportunity at Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour on October 27, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“We are working with state governments, stadiums and impacted clubs about options that best suit them and their fans during the period where home venues are offline,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“There will be additional complexities and challenges with next season’s draw, but the NRL and clubs will be innovative and work together as a game to ensure the best possible season continuity during this period.

“We’ll certainly be taking into consideration the stadium availabilities as we formulate the schedule for next year, but I’m sure all clubs will understand that there will be added constraints.”

Despite the scheduling having been set, there are still discussions between FIFA and the league's head office to ensure the NRL is able to operate effectively throughout the regular season.

The Herald is reporting that there are a few options on the table, including:

  • Stacking home games at the start of the season for teams affected by the World Cup.
  • Scheduling byes (which will be increased from one to two per season when it becomes a 17-team competition next year) for teams affected by the schedule clash
  • Take games to regional venues

The scheduling conflict could also potentially impact the 2023 State of Origin series, with the New South Wales Blues set to host game three, which was originally tipped to be played at Accor Stadium.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I suppose it’s too much to hope that the NRL will also address the poor scheduling which leads to clubs playing each other a couple of times in the first six or seven weeks of the comp.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to get that right, even if you have to factor in “extra” scheduling demands, such as “Broncos always get a Thursday or Friday” or “Dragons v Roosters is always on Anzac day”.

    As for the grounds, surely that is a non-issue? Extra regional games would be welcome. Switching to a spare ground in Sydney – one that is not normally used by either team – would not be out of the question. For example, the Sharks played all their home games last year at the St George ground and no-one complained.

    Other Sydney teams could use Netstrata Jubilee. St George could play a few more matches in the Illawarra. Gosford would not be an impossibility for many spectators – there’s a good train service.

  2. Just to follow on from the above, maybe the NRL could also recognise the disadvantage that the Warriors suffer – jetting backwards and forwards to New Zealand – and arrange a “road trip” schedule.

    For example, for four weeks consecutively they play in Auckland. Then they go on a “road-trip” to Queensland, and over the next weeks play Cowboys, Broncos, Dolphins and Titans. They could base themselves somewhere in Qld for that month, and minimise the travelling.

    Then back to Auckland for four weeks. Then fly to Australia for a month. Base themselves at Gosford (say) and play Newcastle and three Sydney clubs.

    And so on. I suspect the players would appreciate the reduce travelling, and getting away from wife, family and other distractions for a month at a time. It would enable them to focus on the football and make the Warriors more competitive.

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