The ARL Commission essentially pays player salaries and gives each club $5 million for administrative costs, therefore it is nearly rare for an NRL team to go bankrupt these days. However, the Wests Tigers ended the 2023 season $1.4 million in debt.
It won’t force the wooden spooners into bankruptcy, not with the wealthy Wests Ashfield licensed club supporting them and willing to make up any shortfall.
However, the football team would regress to its pre-1950 level if the ARLC were to abruptly cut its yearly subsidies to NRL teams or if the Wests Ashfield directors were to lose their position on the board and the funding source was to disappear.
Back then, when the Wests Ashfield board and club president Bill “The King” Carson were at odds, the yearly donation from the licensed club would have only been enough to pay one star player’s salary when the Magpies were playing at Lidcombe Oval.
The division was so great that the Wests Ashfield board reduced the annual payment by the amount of the sponsorship when the Magpies signed a large sponsor, Victa, a manufacturer of lawnmowers, in the late 1970s.
When Wests and Balmain combined to form Wests Tigers in 1999, the funding disputes persisted, even though both founding clubs had an equal number of directors on the NRL’s newly formed joint venture’s 10-member board. Balmain and Wests had to contribute equally to any cash call to cover a deficit.
Balmain, however, resented this since they were impoverished. Because they controlled the Wests Tigers board through the Campbelltown delegate of the Wests League Club, who usually voted with the Tigers, they were able to postpone the inevitable.
Balmain was therefore unable to contribute, meaning that Wests Tigers had to run with less funding than other NRL teams.
Tim Sheens led the Tigers from 2005 to 2011, and even though he could have made less money in those years, he was paid fairly when he resigned to take on a second head coaching position this year.
The Wests Tigers’ $1.4 million deficit is primarily attributable to his $1 million payout, termination benefits for his administrative partner, and Warren McDonnell, the team’s former recruiting manager.
The Wests Tigers, like all NRL teams, are anticipated to generate a surplus for the upcoming season, despite the peculiar nature of those payments. That is assuming, though, that club grants stay the same and that initiatives like the Las Vegas extravaganza stay revenue-neutral and cost-neutral.
This leads us to the Wests Ashfield board meeting on Tuesday night, which came about as a result of fan unhappiness expressed in an online petition demanding an impartial assessment of Wests Tigers.
Former NRL chief financial officer Tony Crawford and businessman Gary Barnier are preparing a report for Wests Ashfield, which is almost finished. According to Crawford, “We took the board of Wests Ashfield through the process, explaining our thinking, and will then move to other key stakeholders, such as Balmain and Wests Magpies.” Within a month, the final report should be finished.
But in the event that the ARLC reduces funding, there will need to be protections to make sure Wests Ashfield doesn’t give up and refuses to pay future shortfalls.
Speaking anonymously because the conversations had been private, a director stated that Wests Ashfield would never “sell off the farm” but instead might decide to delegate certain critical reserve powers, step back, and let directors with specialized knowledge the authority to make football-related choices.
To be honest, if the Wests Tigers had cut back on their heightened expenditure in the southwest of Sydney this year, they would have broken even, but players and supporters have long been drawn to this area. Therefore, it is their future, particularly if Campbelltown’s ultra-wealthy Wests club decides to rejoin the Wests Tigers board.