Balmain saved from brink of extinction with new leagues club to come
Balmain will survive as a partner in the Wests Tigers after joint-venture partner Wests Ashfield accepted responsibility for the club’s outstanding loan to the NRL and agreed to establish a Tigers leagues club at Rozelle.
Under the terms of a commercial arrangement that still requires member approval from both parties, Wests Ashfield will amalgamate with Balmain Leagues Club after the entity went into voluntary administration last year. The deal will result in an amalgamated Balmain Leagues Club entering into an agreement with the owners of its Rozelle site, Heworth, to build a new Tigers leagues club on the property.
The deal, facilitated by Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrnes and agreed to by all secured creditors, effectively saves Balmain from extinction and ensures it remains a partner in Wests Tigers. Wests Ashfield will also make a five-year commitment to fund the Balmain Football Club and its junior footballers.
“In landing this agreement we have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat,” Byrne said.
“The Tigers were about to become extinct, but the club can now continue as a rugby league entity and to be a partner in Wests Tigers for many decades to come.
“I approached Wests Ashfield seeking their cooperation to establish a Wests Tigers base in Rozelle. Wests and their CEO Simon Cook deserve enormous credit for coming to the aid of the Balmain Tigers at a desperate time. It’s a big thing to do.”
Cash-strapped Balmain failed to make a scheduled payment to contribute to the joint-venture outfit at the start of the year, a move that could have marked the end of its stakeholding in Wests Tigers. However, the new proposed agreement shows just how far the relationship between Wests and Balmain has evolved. The union of the unlikely marriage partners has been at times rocky, but Balmain’s financial state hasn’t been used as an excuse to force them out of the game or the merger. Wests will take over Balmain’s existing loan to the NRL and also take over Balmain’s profitable leagues club at Flemington.
Balmain directors Danny Stapleton and James Myatt will continue to have a presence on the Tigers board.
“After 20 years of sometimes tense relations between the Tigers and Wests this agreement can be the catalyst for a new and unified era of success for Wests Tigers,” Byrne said.
“Heworth, the new owners of the Leagues Club site, has also acted in good faith and shown an understanding that keeping the Balmain Tigers alive is the whole premise of their development proposal. I thank them for their rational and respectful approach.”
Council has begun publicly exhibiting amendments to the Development Control Plan for the Balmain Leagues Club precinct.