The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the Wests Tigers could review their commitment to play games at Campbelltown Stadium in light of public comments made by Campbelltown Councillor Paul Lake about a $55,735 overdue payment by the club for stadium hiring fees.
While the outstanding $55,735 has now been paid, the Wests Tigers are reportedly furious that this was all made public. Their view is that this issue should have been handled behind closed doors. The club has not hidden its anger either.
Wests Tigers CEO Grant Mayer tweeted this just after 11pm last night:
It is hard to understand why the Wests Tigers are so upset. They owed Campbelltown Council a substantial amount of money. While it is great that this bill has now been settled, you have to wonder why it took so long.
The Wests Tigers have yet to officially allocate their home games for the 2014 season. While there is some talk they may move games away from Campbelltown Stadium, I don’t think they have that luxury.
The Wests Tigers are likely to play some home games at ANZ Stadium next season. They will also play home games at the dilapidated Leichhardt Oval while others will be played at Campbelltown Stadium.
None of these “home grounds” are ideal for the Wests Tigers. All have their strengths and weaknesses.
One interesting thing to consider is the input that the Campbelltown area has on the Wests Tigers. The club gains a lot of junior talent and funding from Rugby League clubs in the region. They can not just turn their back on the area because they have been called out on an unpaid bill.
When you look long term, the Wests Tigers future is in the Campbelltown area. They draw so many resources from the area already, it is a growing area of the city, and it is an area of greater Sydney that the Wests Tigers can call their own.
While many people are fond of Leichhardt Oval the fact is that it is nowhere near the standard of facility required for the club going forward. Even is tends of millions of dollars were spent on the stadium, the lack of infrastructure around the stadium makes it a terrible place for fans to get to.
While a move to ANZ Stadium makes financial sense it is not ideal for a club that struggles to draw supporters through the gates unless they are winning games. ANZ Stadium needs around 60,000 people to have any sort of atmosphere. While clubs like the Canterbury Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs can justify their patronage of the facility due to their big attendance figures, the Wests Tigers aren’t quite at that level just yet.
You also have to question whether the Tigers have the ability to muscle in on the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs. Both clubs have gone a long way to making ANZ Stadium feel like a home. You could make a very good case that the Wests Tigers would be a third wheel in that situation.
While Campbelltown Stadium is far from ideal due to its location and lack of facilities, there is the opportunity to develop the stadium and grow in the area. The Wests Tigers are the only shown in town in Campbelltown, something the NRL no doubt see’s as a long term future home for the club.
All of this of course feeds into much bigger issues the game faces in Sydney. Where does the future lie for certain clubs? Stadium rationalization is going to happen. That process can not be stopped. As one of the Sydney based clubs that plays home games at multiple stadiums the Wests Tigers will be effected more than other clubs in that process.
It would be wise for the Tigers to not go out of their way and burn their bridges in that regard. It would also be handy if next time they just pay their bills too!