Finance not an issue in WA league bid

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Finance not an issue in WA league bid

Post by Redszone on Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:30 pm

Western Australia's bid team claim they'd be among the highest sponsorship-earning NRL clubs within two years if admitted to the competition.

They are acting on advice to have their bid ready to go in the next few weeks and indications are finance should not be an issue given interest shown in the AFL-dominated state.

"I've been told: 'Don't be surprised if you get a phone call from possibly even (NRL chief) David Gallop this month giving you six weeks to have something on the table'," said West Australian Rugby League Bid project manager Ralph McManis.

"That's so the independent commission can take them into review at their very first meeting in the first week of May."

WARL chief executive John Sackson said about $4 million worth of company sponsorship commitments were already on the table and one of them was prepared to commit $1.5 million to be the team's major sponsor.

Following the lead of Star City casino's recent major sponsorship of South Sydney and the partnership between Crown Casino and the Melbourne Storm, Perth's Burswood Casino was among those eager to be involved with a WA team.

Despite having only been able to sell "hopes and dreams" at this stage, McManis said the interest shown by the business community made them believe the club would be very profitable.

"We've had a bit of a roadshow around some of the corporates of Perth, particularly the top end of town," he said.

"If we're awarded a licence, we anticipate we could go close to being the highest sponsor-earning NRL club in our first two years."

McManis put this down to the WA business community largely consisting of mining and resource companies who are reaping the profits of a mining boom and have gone untapped by eastern NRL clubs.

One man who has been touted as a potential financial backer is Fortescue Metals Group boss Andrew Forrest whose interest in rugby league was evident in his attempt to have the NRL All-Stars game played in Perth.

However, a spokesman for Forrest said the mining magnate had not yet had any discussions with the WARL bid team or made any financial commitment.

Owners News Limited will exit the game at the end of April, with the independent commission expected to take control on May 1.

On top of the commission's agenda will be the issue of negotiating a new television deal and the prospect of expanding the 16-team competition, which, according to McManis, go hand in hand.

The marketing and ad-man said it would not make sense for the NRL to negotiate a TV deal without being able to tell potential bidders where the competition would expand in the future.

"They're not going to be able to say 'there's going to be two new teams' but in the next breath say 'we don't know where they are yet'," McManis said.

"If I was (Seven Network chairman) Kerry Stokes bidding on something, I'd want to know where the hell the teams are going to be."

Comments by the NRL chief Gallop in the past year have signalled WA is one of the frontrunners for a new franchise should expansion, which would occur in 2013 at the earliest, be given the green light.

Gallop told a lunch in Perth in December that the WARL bid "has a big advantage because it gives us a presence for our sponsors in a big capital city that we don't otherwise have.

"In terms of the financial stability, the facilities, the time slot advantage and the expat population keen to get a rugby league team, then Perth is a frontrunner."
Competition for a potential new franchise has ramped up in recent months with backers for a second Brisbane team declaring they already have solid financial support from sponsors, upsetting the team behind the Central Queensland bid.

The Central Coast Bears have long boasted their credentials while a third bid from Queensland has emerged in the form of the Ipswich Jets whose proposal is being spearheaded by former Sydney Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan.

Rank outsider Papua New Guinea has also declared it's in the mix.

One of the drawbacks to WA's last assay into rugby league during the 1990s was the fact the now defunct Western Reds played all their home games at a cricket ground - the WACA.

If granted a licence the proposed WARL team would share the rectangular NIB Stadium with Super Rugby team the Western Force.

Last year the state government committed approximately $83 million to the first stage of redeveloping the ground which will include a modern eastern grandstand and a replacement of the playing surface.

The redevelopment, which is scheduled to begin in 2012, is expected to take capacity to about 22,000 with an aim to eventually increase the number of seats to 25,000.

Sackson said although the redevelopment was going ahead, Gallop had told him in its present form the stadium was "on par if not better than some of the existing venues on the east coast".

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has committed to building a new stadium in Rockhampton if the Central Queensland bid is successful.

NSW Opposition Leader, and most likely premier come March 26, Barry O'Farrell has committed $3.5 million of funding for a new headquarters and state-of-the-art training centre should the Central Coast Bears' bid get up.

Sackson said the WARL would seek financial support from the WA Government if they're given the go ahead to help the club set up in the first 18 months.

WA Sports Minister Terry Waldron said the government has made no formal commitment to the WARL but that may change if they are granted a licence.

"There is a precedent for government to support bids for state teams to join national competitions, however, it would be premature to make any commitment until a formal process has been announced by the NRL," Waldron said.

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