Eels-Tigers headed for record crowd

Eels chief executive Scott Seward has challenged supporters to make the crowd for Monday's clash with Wests Tigers the biggest in the NRL so far this season to help the club's campaign for a 32,000-seat stadium at Parramatta.

Not content with an anticipated record-breaking attendance at matches between the Eels and Tigers, Seward wants the crowd at ANZ Stadium to surpass the 43,255 who watched Canterbury beat South Sydney 15-14 at the same venue on Good Friday.

"I would love to think that we could potentially challenge the Good Friday crowd," Seward said."It's two big teams that are on the way back from where they have been the past few years, both of whom have good fan bases and are playing a good style of footy."

With more than 12,000 tickets pre-sold last Thursday night, the crowd is expected to eclipse the 34,272 attendance for the corresponding match in 2009 as the largest for a premiership clash between the Eels and Wests Tigers.

Despite not being played at Pirtek Stadium, the game is included in season ticket packages for Parramatta's 16,000 members with some Tigers members also entitled to free entry under a ticketing deal between the two clubs and ANZ Stadium.

"The pre-sales are astronomical so it is looking like a really, really good crowd for us," Seward said. "The key now is the members from both the Eels and the Tigers showing up. We should just tick over 16,000 members tomorrow, which is fantastic and just goes to show how great our fans really are.

"They haven't had much to cheer about the last two years but I think we are the fifth-highest in the NRL at the moment with an ambition of being No.1 in time. That is why another 12,000 seats at Pirtek Stadium would be nice and it is also why tomorrow's crowd is really important for us because we want to show that we should have a 32,000-capacity stadium because we will fill it."

The NSW government has indicated it will build a third big stadium, in Sydney's west, rather than fund upgrades of suburban venues.  A proposal to sell Wentworth Park greyhound track to fund a 35,000-seat covered stadium at Penrith was rejected last week.

The Eels want Pirtek Stadium upgraded to increase capacity from 20,000 to 32,000, install Wi-Fi and improve training facilities. Seward said they had support from co-tenant Western Sydney Wanderers and NSW Venues, which manages the stadium.

"Certainly, from our perspective, if a stadium is going to be built in western Sydney we think it should be in the centre of western Sydney and the centre of western Sydney's CBD, which is Parramatta," Seward said.

"I think the most important thing is that the three key stakeholders - being Venues NSW, the Wanderers and us - all agree that Pirtek Stadium should be the western Sydney stadium and should have a capacity of 32,000.

"The experience at Pirtek Stadium can't be bettered I don't think. I think Suncorp is the only stadium that can challenge it, or ANZ Stadium when it is filled to the brim, so imagine if we could get 32,000 in for Parramatta. It would awesome."

Meanwhile, Seward said, no decision had yet been made to move the round 19 match against South Sydney from Pirtek Stadium to ANZ Stadium.

"The Souths game at this stage will be staying at Pirtek Stadium," he said. "That is just something for us to explore in the future but right now it is scheduled for Pirtek Stadium and that is where it will be played."

This story Eels-Tigers headed for record crowd first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.