<big>Wests Tigers vow to put own financial interests at top of list</big>
March 29, 2016 12:00AM
One of the most important weeks in Wests Tigers’ history has begun with chair Marina Go insisting the club must prioritise its own financial sustainability over the game’s desire to find a compromise on the future of Sydney stadiums.
Go stepped into the chair role with the club at its lowest ebb but the Tigers now find themselves negotiating from a position of strength given the influence they wield over the potential allocation of government funding towards Sydney’s major venues.
The joint venture is among four clubs whose future scheduling of home games could prove the difference between the state government devoting the lion’s share of its $1.6 billion stadium funding to ANZ Stadium, or instead directing it towards a new ground adjacent to Allianz Stadium.
The NRL has until Friday to lock in 65 games necessary to ensure the funding is forthcoming — the same day a 50 per cent share in the Tigers is expected to hit the open market.
The Tigers currently play four games apiece at Leichhardt Oval, Campbelltown Stadium and ANZ Stadium but it is believed the NRL would like the club to commit at least eight games to one of the city’s major grounds as part of the new agreement.
Go declined to reveal the Tigers’ plans, other than to say any decision would be centred around the ramifications for the club’s long-term future.
“We are going to make a decision that is based on the future financial sustainability of this organisation,” Go said. “That has to be a priority. It has been the board’s priority since day one. Some of our stakeholders know there is going to be some pain along the way.
“As a board we’re not afraid of that. We have made some bold decisions and will continue to do so.
“We’re trying to assess the full picture. That doesn’t mean we can’t make an in-principle decision around stadia. But clearly we need to make sure there is some financial gain for us in doing so.
“We’re not going to put our club in a position where we’re worse off because of a whole-of-game decision.”
Go confirmed the club had spoken to the NRL about helping fund a Centre of Excellence as part of the negotiations.
The Tigers lag behind some of the NRL’s superpowers in terms of spending on their football department — the gap is believed to be as much as $10 million between the biggest and smallest spenders.
“Clearly the conditions of our centre of excellence are not up to the standards we would like for a sporting organisation,” Go said.
“When you talk about equality of clubs … you also need to think about facilities. This is a real priority for us at the moment. We certainly had a conversation with them around how they might help us. Clearly it is a big consideration for us. We have always said we wouldn’t make a decision around our stadia strategy until we were very, very clear about the right path forward for the Wests Tigers.
“We will make a decision that’s in the best interests of the Wests Tigers because that’s what we have to do. Of course we want to be part of a decision that grows the entire sport and is great for the sport.
“The NRL with good reason is anxious about missing out on this potentially great deal with the state government. But as clubs we have to do what is right for our club and our members.
“Hopefully the two will coincide.”
Go also rejected suggestions the club would fall into line with the game’s governing body because the Balmain side of the joint venture had been propped up by the NRL. That $5m debt is due to be paid by close of business on Thursday, meaning 50 per cent of the Tigers is likely to hit the market come Friday morning unless Balmain can find the funds.
“They don’t own our club,” Go said of the NRL. “They certainly can’t tell us what to do and we’re certainly not going to do what they want purely because they have given one of our shareholders a lifeline.
“Let’s not forget the loan is with Balmain. That is independent to the decisions we make around the Wests Tigers. I don’t view the NRL as one of our shareholders in the current situation because that is a loan to Balmain.
“From our point of view, we will not fall into line with anybody. We will make decisions around what is best for Wests Tigers.”