The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the Balmain Tigers need to raise $4 million within 2 years or risk folding, putting their joint venture with Western Suburbs at risk.
The $4 million the Balmain Tigers need to come up with is from a loan the NRL gave the Wests Tigers joint venture. This loan came with certain strings attached, including a restructuring of the Wests Tigers board that saw the NRL itself take a controlling interest in the club.
If the Balmain Tigers are unable to raise the funds to repay the loan and the NRL stands its ground on the deadline, the Wests Tigers joint venture could be put at risk. Wests Ashfield (The Western Suburbs side of the joint venture) could step in and pay the money themselves, effectively taking over the Wests Tigers joint venture themselves and leaving the Balmain Tigers extinct. However if Wests Ashfield decides against such a move the NRL would almost certainly relocate the club.
The Balmain Tigers are struggling to survive after shutting down their old Leagues club and finding themselves mired in planning permission hell with their new league club development. It has seen a lot of issues at the joint venture with the Western Suburbs side tipping in so much money and therefore demanding more power at board level. For now, the NRL holds more votes on the Wests Tigers board than either the Balmain or Wests sides.
It will be interesting to see if the NRL stands firm on its deadline. It is a lot of money for the Balmain Tigers to come up with considering they haven’t a league club right now.
I think as long as Wests Ashfield wants to continue funding the Wests Tigers in some way, the club wouldn’t be relocated. While it would be a big financial burden for the club to take over the joint venture outright, I have no doubt the NRL would see that as the best case scenario should the Balmain Tigers default on the loan.
Relocation would be a last resort for the NRL that would only happen if the Balmain Tigers fold and Wests Ashfield decides against taking on the running of an NRL club on their own.
When the Wests Tigers joint venture was formed some at the time described it as two weak clubs coming together to form one weak club. The Wests Tigers found success in 2005 when they won a Premiership but in the years since their results have been pretty average to say the least.
For most of its history the Balmain side was seen as the stronger side of the joint venture. Over the years however that has changed, with the Western Suburbs side getting its act together while the Balmain side crumbled.
What ends up happening to the Wests Tigers is anyone’s guess. I would suggest that the NRL would not want to leave the Campbelltown region without an NRL club representing the area.
If the money and interesting to control the club isn’t there though, the NRL would be left with little choice than to take the club under its control. If that happens they could move the club to Perth without even needing to change the name, logo or club colours, and set up shop there without any problem.
The WARL has already said that while they would like their own West Coast Pirates franchise up and running, they would be willing to welcome any relocated club to Perth.
It all makes for a worrying time for Wests Tigers supporters over the next few years.
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