”It’s a historic moment for the Wests Tigers”: NRL boss Dave Smith. Photo: James Brickwood
Wests Tigers have struck a historic agreement to overhaul their corporate structure in what the NRL describes as a potential blueprint for other clubs to follow.
Fairfax Media can reveal the Balmain and Western Suburbs factions, an uneasy alliance since they merged into Wests Tigers in 1999, have agreed to a new model of seven directors – two from the Balmain side, two from Western Suburbs, and three independent board members. The landmark agreement to ensure a more harmonious relationship between the merged entities was ratified by the NRL at an extraordinary meeting between the parties on Thursday. It came just two days after Balmain and Western Suburbs met to sign off on the arrangement.
Under the new arrangement, the ARLC has agreed to cover the financial shortfall of the cash-strapped Balmain side for the next two years. Balmain must square the ledger within that period or face losing their shares in the joint venture.
Until such time as security is provided against the money lent, the two Balmain board members – Nick Di Girolamo and Danny Stapleton, who have been nominated for those spots – won’t have voting rights. Western Suburbs will be represented by Tony Andreacchio and Wests Ashfield boss Simon Cook.
The archaic system of alternating chairmen on an annual basis will be scrapped, and the role now will go to one of the three independent directors. Those board members will be selected by the two entities from a list sourced by the NRL.
After years of backroom squabbling between the factions, the long-awaited reforms are expected to provide the Tigers with the financial and off-field stability that has been missing for much of their short history in the NRL.
”It’s a historic moment for the Wests Tigers,” NRL boss Dave Smith said. ”The club, along with the two shareholders, has shown great courage in agreeing to the changes. It’s a great moment for the club and a big moment for the governance of the game in beginning to set the standard to improve the overall quality of these boards.
”Fans and members can have some confidence the newly constituted board will have the independence and business plans to grow and be great again.”
The changes – which are sure to be welcomed by stakeholders, including fans, players and officials – were agreed upon after an independent audit outlined the extent of the financial struggles under the previous arrangement.
Wests Ashfield Leagues club had previously sought control of the board in exchange for a $ 1 million cash injection to prevent Wests Tigers from becoming insolvent last year. The failure of the leagues club development at Rozelle was one of the factors behind Balmain being burdened with a $ 9.5 million debt.
Western Suburbs and Balmain have agreed on little since their union 15 years ago. However, in recent months, the parties have made a concerted effort to work more cooperatively to ensure the long-term sustainability of Wests Tigers. With the majority of NRL clubs running at a loss, the agreement highlights the role of the ARLC in assisting clubs towards sustainability. Smith said the Tigers’ structure could be a blueprint for how other NRL clubs could operate in the future.
”For sure, it sets the standard,” Smith said. ”It’s very much a blueprint and a benchmark for the standard of governance we want across the whole game.”
The league provided additional funding only after it was satisfied the corporate governance issues were resolved.
Wests Tigers can now move positively towards several long-term ambitions. They include finding a new training base to replace the ageing Concord Oval, the establishment of academies in both its heartland regions and a cohesive strategy for stadiums.