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Dragons warn of leaving the Gong

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Berkeley_Eagle, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan

    +2,125 /14
    Dragons warn of leaving the Gong

        By Brent Read
        February 28, 2008


    LEADING St George Illawarra officials have warned the Dragons could be forced to abandon Wollongong unless something is done to alleviate pressure on the gaming industry.

    In a letter addressed to New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma, St George Leagues Club general manager Danny Robinson paints a bleak future with the increased poker machine tax, and new smoking regulations.

    The Dragons have had their grant from the powerful St George Leagues Club slashed by $2 million, while the Wollongong Leagues Club contributes nothing to the football club.

    As a result, Robinson warns the Illawarra region could eventually be part of the Dragons in name only.

    "The Illawarra Steelers Club have advised that they are unable to contribute any funds towards the cost of football in the foreseeable future," Robinson writes in the letter to Iemma.

    "This may well end the Dragons' participation in the Wollongong region with no Dragons matches staged at the Wollongong Sports Ground."

    Most NSW clubs rely on leagues club grants and the issue has become such a concern that the NRL has formed a working committee to investigate the impact of the poker machine tax.

    St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust, a member of the committee, stressed the Dragons had a contract to play games at WIN Stadium until 2011. However, he could make no guarantees beyond that point.

    "I think Danny is foreshadowing what could be a problem going forward if we can't get answers to the circumstances that are falling financially at the moment," Doust said.

    "It's hypothetical out there in the future that that might threaten NRL or elite rugby league being played in Wollongong. But nobody has that on their agenda at the moment."

    While St George Leagues Club has provided the financial muscle for the joint venture, the club's playing strength has largely been secured from the Illawarra region. Games have also traditionally been split between the regions. As part of the merger, formed in 1999, the Dragons have played at Oki Jubilee Stadium in Sydney and WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

    With Oki Jubilee undergoing renovations, the club has shifted games to ANZ Stadium.

    "We love the fact the St George Illawarra Dragons are the NRL brand of the region. We wouldn't leave easily either," Doust said. "It's still hypothetically possible given the way the situation is at the moment. We have a lot of work to do to keep it sustained in Wollongong, as we have to keep it sustained generally."
  2. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan

    +2,125 /14
    February 28, 2008 STEELERS club chairman Peter Newell confirmed St George Illawarra would have little option but to bail out of the Illawarra without reforms to tax and the local community's way of thinking.

    Newell's frank assessment comes on the back of media reports suggesting St George Leagues club may be forced to abandon their joint venture partner due to financial constraints, with the Illawarra side of the partnership currently contributing nothing to the club's coffers.

    The Dragons have an agreement to play out of WIN Stadium until 2011, the same time the joint-venture agreement is up for renewal.

    With crippling new poker machine taxes already seeing $2 million slashed from St George Leagues Club's grant to the football club, Newell admitted there could come a time when the senior partner would no longer be willing to prop up little brother.

    "If down the track the Steelers can't hold their end up in the joint venture, and our friends at St George continue to have their own issues - and certainly a $2 million reduction to the club grant is a hell of an issue - all hands are going to have to be on the table," said Newell, who also doubles as the boss of Clubs NSW.

    "It would be just another blow that the region just doesn't need if this were to happen.

    "We've just seen the struggles that the (Wollongong) Hawks have gone through ... we saw the Wollongong Wolves - they won two straight national soccer league championships and they still struggled and in the end weren't there.

    "Having the Dragons down there means a lot economically, it means a lot aspirationally, it means a lot socially."

    With NRL boss David Gallop in transit to the UK for this weekend's World Club Challenge, NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said the league was not yet considering the prospect of the NRL being lost to the Illawarra.

    "Judging by (Dragons chief executive) Peter Doust's remarks in the media, it's not something that they are planning to do at this stage because of their existing commitment to WIN Stadium," Annesley said.

    "From the game's point of view it further reinforces the financial pressure our NSW clubs are under due to the impact of poker machine taxes and changes to smoking laws."

    The Steelers club have already been bailed out once by WIN Corporation, which purchased a 25 per cent stake in the joint venture, but poor crowds at the licensed premises mean revenue is poor.

    The venue is very much a white elephant, except for the six times a year when the Dragons host a match at WIN Stadium across the road.

    Newell said if the local community wanted to keep their team, they needed to support the Steelers club.

    "The broad sporting public of the region needs to know that putting an NRL side on the field comes at a considerable cost," Newell said.

    "The magic wand in the short term - putting aside industry wide issues regarding taxation - is we need our registered club to perform better.

    "Full stop.

    "It's our revenue generator and we need more out of it. We need more recognition from people that supporting that club is a direct translation to supporting having the Dragons down there.

    "If the city tells me they don't particularly care, I won't have to lay awake at two o'clock in the morning saying 'what can we do about this'."


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