Hi everyone, long time reader first time poster here. Whilst I know this is a passionate topic I am looking to post an idea and my reasoning on here not because I’m looking to change anyones minds but because I am trying to connect with people who might support my idea. I know there are a lot of strong and legitimate views on this topic and I’ve decided there is no perfect solution to our problem about having a single (or dominant) home ground but I wanted to lay out my thoughts and then see if anyone else agreed. As I see it we have 5 potential home grounds:
- Leichhardt Oval
- Campbelltown Sports Stadium
- ANZ (as is)
- SFS (redeveloped)
My thoughts on the topic are shaped by a few “binding constraints” being:
a) Like it or not our Club is owned by Wests Ashfield with limited (if any) control from Wests Campbelltown and Balmain. Ashfield is an inner city suburb (10km from Sydney CBD right on the trainline). Whilst I think Wests Ashfield are doing their best to accommodate the broader “Wests Tigers” family, the decision to base the COE at Concord is instructive that they don’t see themselves based in the greater south west of Sydney.
b) Any strategic decision around a permanent home must be made around that stadium’s ability to accommodate meaningful corporate facilities as the future of NRL clubs will be how to grow resourcing outside of the NRL/Leagues club funding model (think Souths, Bronco’s, Melbourne)
c) The stadium needs to be accessible to all fans and be able to comfortable accommodate a growing support base (a 30,00 seat stadium is probably the sweet spot).
Looking at the available options and the constraints above my view is:
Leichhardt Oval is not going to be redeveloped. It is a beautiful venue to watch rugba league and we should always play at least one Sunday afternoon heritage round at the oval but to meet my requirements above you would need to demolish and rebuild the North, South and Western stands. Even then I doubt there is enough room behind those stands to actually construct it and it would probably require the cutting down of the huge fig trees along the northern end and destruction of the small heritage stand at the souther end. I just can’t see this happening even before you start to think about how would this be paid for (100m+?), transport (middle of a suburb) and politics (Balmain’s home ground for Ashfield owner).
Campbelltown Sports Stadium. On paper a great idea. A huge untapped junior system to consolidate and an open license to create a new club that the NRL would never let go. You could probably convince the state government to build a brand new stadium to share with the new A League team and the Tigers could focus on becoming a Western Sydney force to rival the Panthers. The reality is however the owner of the club is situated in inner city Ashfield and whilst Wests Campbelltown is aligned it is a separate entity and has been for a long time. I can’t see how the owner of the club would set itself up 50km away and play out of stadium next door to different sports club (no matter how friendly). Unless Wests Ashfield and Campbelltown agreed to merge into one mega club and consolidate ownership and board I can’t see any owner making this choice. This is reinforced by the COE Concord decision. No matter how much sense it makes to stake our claim in the greater south west it just doesn’t seem like that will ever get through the politics and logic of who our owner is. Perhaps if there is a buyout of the club by a wealthy West Sydney syndicate that would work but if Wests Ashfield continues to want to own the club I cant see why they would setup base in Campbelltown. There is no doubt we should also play at least one heritage game at CSS.
Bankwest. Fantastic stadium. I wish we had a stadium like this in an area that made sense to us but the biggest mistake the state government made was allowing Parramatta to claim it as their own. With their Leagues club right next door they have really taken control of that stadium (most fans would probably call it Parramatta Stadium) and I just can’t see Wests Tigers be able to dent that dominant narrative considering the eels have played out of that venue for decades and have made it a fortress over the last 2 years. A Wests Tigers that play at Bankwest will always feel like a team the is surplus to requirements and I think it may even accelerate our demise/relocation. Compared to the Bulldogs who have a strong and unbroken identity/history, the history of Wests Tigers is complicated and new despite having such a rich past (in a way we have cleansed our history as a way to avoid the culture wars that erupted between Wests and Balmain post merger. The club can barely bring itself to mention players who existed prior to 2000). I can see the Bulldogs being able to survive even if they play at Bankwest, with Wests Tigers already feeling a bit on the outer I don’t think we can risk playing out of a dominant eels home ground. Fantastic stadium though.
ANZ Stadium. Not built for week to week club football. Reasonably central and has helped clubs like Souths grow their members but it clearly lacks atmosphere. I wouldnt be surprised if all clubs drop ANZ and its used only for Origin/GF.
Rebuilt SFS. At first glance it seems an awkward choice given that it is situated in the Eastern side of the CBD. These are the reasons why I think of all the choices it makes the most sense (out of several imperfect options).
a) It close to our owner. Only 10km from Wests Ashfield and easily accessible via public transport from Ashfield.
b) There is room to grow (45,000 capacity) but also room to have a more intimate game if needed. The details of the redevelopment highlighted that the upper decks could be shutoff with an LCD curtain such that only the lower bowl is occupied. For Sydney derby’s (Souths, Dragons, Bulldogs etc) these games could easily draw crowds 25k-35k that would make use of the bigger capacity and increase the economic return for the club (as home team).
c) The Corporate Facilities will be exceptional. This is a stadium designed for Rugby and the eastern Sydney crowd, it will be an experience that you can’t beat in Sydney (on par or better than Bankwest).
d) It is accessible for all of Sydney. The State Governments massive infrastructure investment is going to deliver clear access to Moore Park (the North West Metro already services the north west and will reach down to Bankstown in the south west, the Parramatta metro will link all the inner west into Central, the M8 and Westconnex will link up the road network all connecting through this edge of the CBD). This will mean that all of the Tigers diaspora will have viable ways to come together more regularly.
Of course there are downsides, the most obvious being that it will also be the Roosters home ground. In reality though I think this is very different to the issue with Bankwest because the Roosters are a very poorly supported club (at games) and their identity is really only linked to their ability to win competitions. I might be biased but I view Roosters supporters as really only around for the good times (granted a lot of good times recently). With Roosters having such a weak crowd support I think it will be much easier for Tigers to establish their own “identity” at the stadium and infact we could dominate the space because we have a much larger and more passionate supporter base.
I have been thinking about this issue for a while because I think everyone can recognise this is the last critical decision the club needs to make to really achieve its destiny and put to bed what has been a pretty difficult 20 years for supporters (punctured by a couple of years of absolute joy). Whilst I’m keen to hear others views I am more keen to find people who feel the same way and are willing to sign this petition I setup in order to try and give some visibility to this idea. If you agree please sign the attached petition and forward to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter etc as I dont have a presence there so have no reach.