Threat to Tigers’ future
May 13, 2012
THE future of the Wests Tigers power base could shift dramatically in favour of the Wests Magpies if the proposed development of the site of the old Balmain Leagues club does not go ahead, after the chief executive of the Balmain Leagues Club admitted it was becoming harder by the year to meet their football commitments.
Balmain and Western Suburbs are half-owners of the Wests Tigers, and the relationship has always been tenuous with arguments about logos and choice of colours still raging. However, the Tigers suffered a blow when their leagues club, based on Victoria Road at Rozelle, was shut down when the former state government resumed land along that strip to build a metro-style railway that was planned to link the inner west and CBD with a rail network.
The project didn’t happen and the old building is now an eyesore, covered in graffiti and said to be infested by vermin. The original proposal to redevelop the precinct was knocked back and the revised version, which is on public display, was condemned by Green groups for being too big, out of the area’s character, something that’d create traffic gridlock while there was also concerns about the shadow the tower would cast over surrounding dwellings.
Balmain relocated to two venues, the old Five Dock Bowling Club and the other at Flemington markets. However, Balmain Leagues chief executive Andy Timbs conceded business was tough and said unless they returned to where ‘‘people know us and love us’’ it could be hard to service their future commitment - which was as much as $1.5 million - as half-owners of the Wests Tigers and supporters of the local football competition.
‘‘It puts a lot of pressure [on us],’’ Timbs said of being based away from their traditional home. ''Balmain relies on a lot of support from the community by way of people being members of the club and supporting the club and if we have only [the current] two small businesses to run it will be hard to get the revenue through the business that’s required to run the footy and so forth.
''Obviously, we’re half-owners of the Wests Tigers and obviously that would affect that. If we continue to operate away from Rozelle we’d find it hard to continue to support [Wests Tigers] but we do our best … we always come up with the money … and it is just getting harder and harder each year.
‘‘It’s $1.5 million a year we need to come up with a year for football and it’s hard to get that sort of revenue if you haven’t got the big enough business to support it.’’
Timbs said it was clear people in the area were passionate about their team and said he received 30 calls a day asking when the club would return to Victoria Road.
''People want their club back, they want the Tigers to thrive, they want to see the local football thrive and junior football develop and all of this can happen if the development goes ahead. It would be a terrible shame to see such a wonderful opportunity lost. From Balmain Leagues point of view, it was always the expectation we’d reinhabit that area and the potential to move into a state-of-the-art venue was something we were excited by.
‘‘The structure would be the envy of the inner west.’’
Timbs said he was astounded by the reaction by some groups who were aware of the facilities the new premises would offer - a medical centre, supermarket and club - and suggested people who were pro-development had been subjected to unacceptable behaviour.
‘‘It’s quite alarming and sad seeing people get into such a state where they’d end up threatening people,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s sad to see that happen because they live in the same area - it would be lovely to see everyone embrace some degree of change. It’s happened all through history where the naysayers are always there but sometimes we need a bit of vision.’’