Balmain look to Richmond namesake in bid to keep their stripes
September 8, 2014 - 1:48AM
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Balmain will use the example of their AFL namesake Richmond in an audacious bid to save their shareholding in Wests Tigers and preserve a 106-year presence in top-level rugby league.
The foundation club’s standing as a partner in the merged entity is in grave danger, with the original Tigers set to be denied representation on a newly assembled Wests Tigers board and facing the prospect of having their partnership bought out if they can’t settle their debts within the next 18 months.
The new board was due to meet on Sunday night and elect a chairperson. Balmain’s two representatives, Danny Stapleton and Jim Myatt, were expected to have a vote on that decision but be removed from the board by as early as Friday under the terms of a deal struck with the NRL in March.
Tough road ahead: Wests Tigers’ glory years are a thing of the past.
Tough road ahead: Wests Tigers’ glory years are a thing of the past. Photo: Getty Images
The agreement is understood to state that the first call for funding from the joint venture partners can be made in as little as five days after the board convenes, meaning that by the end of the week Balmain’s delegates will be asked whether they are financial, and when they inevitably confirm they are not, they will drop off as directors.
The NRL, in turn, will continue paying Balmain’s share to run Wests Tigers, a debt that will rise by $1.4 million a year and reach $5 million by the March 2016 deadline that has been set for it to be repaid to League Central.
Repayment is a mountain that many believe will be impossible for Balmain to climb – Tigers great Ben Elias said on Sunday the Balmain portion of Wests Tigers was “dead” – but those behind the rescue mission are drawing on what was achieved by Richmond as they hold out hope for survival.
Richmond’s Fighting Tigers Fund is an example of a successful fundraising initiative.
Richmond’s Fighting Tigers Fund is an example of a successful fundraising initiative. Photo: Justin McManus
In 2011 Richmond set themselves an ambitious plan to raise $6 million in 12 months, much of it through the donations of supporters, to try to clear their huge debts.
Balmain Tigers are looking closely at what the AFL club did with its “Fighting Tigers’ Fund” and at least have the advantage of a connection to Richmond and that successful fundraising initiative.
Balmain director Jim Myatt is a former sponsor of the Melbourne side and was an active participant in their program.
Myatt, the Australian chief executive of US-based solar company Sungevity, backed Richmond with the energy retail firm he founded, Australian Power and Gas, and has been given access to information that could assist Balmain in their fundraising venture.
“We’ve done a lot of post-analysis regarding how that fighting fund worked over the last year with Balmain and they’ve been good at helping us look at a bit of that. I was part of the Fighting Tigers Fund from the Richmond side so I’ve seen how some of those programs worked,” Myatt said.
Richmond asked fans to contribute amounts of between $3000 and more than $81,000, which gave them entitlements ranging from a club dinner invitation, a framed and signed replica guernsey and at the top end having their name listed on a clubroom plaque.
Balmain are in a more difficult position; they do not have the supporter base of Richmond, who now boast more than 65,000 members, and fans are not being asked to save Wests Tigers – whose existence is not in doubt due to cashed-up partners Western Suburbs – but simply Balmain’s share in it.
Myatt, however, believes the money can be raised. “The first calling amount is around $2 million. Richmond raised $6 million in their fighting fund, or thereabouts,” he said.
"Even if we don’t meet the initial funding call we then have like 15 months to pay the money back to keep the shareholding. I would have thought that in that time, with the support base of Balmain, that we would be able to raise that money.
Balmain’s fighting fund will be launched on September 26 when a 25-year reunion for the 1989 grand final team is held at their premises at Five Dock Bowling Club. Elias, who played in that team that suffered a heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Canberra, is not as confident.
The former Balmain hooker, who Fairfax Media reported last month was still receiving a monthly “administration fee” of $21,000 from Balmain Leagues Club, a year after walking away as a developer of the controversial Rozelle Village project, told Triple M: “It’s like we’re on life support and it’s inevitable they’re going to pull the plug. In a nutshell, the Balmain side of the [joint venture] is dead.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/balmain-look-to-richmond-namesake-in-bid-to-keep-their-stripes-20140907-10dlcy.html#ixzz3Che2leNR