During the past fortnight, Wests Tigers supporters have been investing financially, as well as emotionally, in their club. The result is a $1 million windfall for the organisation.
At a time when 15 of the 16 NRL clubs are in the red, the joint-venture outfit has sought an alternative way to raise funds, through the newly created Wests Tigers Foundation.The initiative, established with the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF), invites fans to make a tax-free donation at weststigersfoundation.com.au that will go towards the club’s elite development, community engagement and heritage recognition.
The program has only just been launched, but already is paying off, the faithful pledging a seven-figure amount to the Tigers over a four-year period. Officials stress that it is just the beginning and have encouraged other supporters to contribute to the club’s success now that the program has been launched publicly.
“It’s one of the most significant and ambitious projects the club has ever undertaken over the last 18 years,” Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe said.
“We spent a lot of time with Richmond and Geelong, two clubs in the AFL, that gave us evidence-based studies to justify what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing it the correct way.
“Those clubs have generated about $10 million each in donations. We’ve spent a lot of time down there and it’s about getting it right the first time.
“It has become increasingly apparent that there is a correlation between those clubs that spend a lot of money in football departments and where they finish on the table.
“We will be giving our investors dividends, which is on and off-field results.
“It’s not finite, it will continue. Why wouldn’t people want to invest in a business seeking to becoming a dominant player in the NRL?”
Rugby league clubs have historically struggled to make ends meet. Some have the luxury of being linked to rich leagues club, but even they can’t afford to rely solely on revenue derived from poker machines.
While memberships, gate takings and merchandise sales will always be important, the Tigers have now followed the lead of AFL clubs in generating money through the ASF. In 2016-17, the ASF raised $44.75 million for Australian sport, just a tick under $20 million of those funds going to Australian rules football. Rugby league, by comparison, was 12th on the list of sports for donations with just $429,312.
The Tigers have made huge strides on and off the field, but the income stream is vital to ensure coach Ivan Cleary’s side can compete with cashed-up rivals. The club has secured $5.5 million worth of state government funding to begin the refurbishment of its outdated Concord headquarters, but every additional dollar counts to ensure the players have appropriate infrastructure.
A committee has been established to ensure the money is properly distributed to areas including the football department, the club’s 60 community programs and the acknowledging of former players.
“It’s about fast-tracking the process of realising our ambition to be a dominant club in the NRL, than if we just went down a traditional path,” Pascoe said.
“It’s not about the arms race of football spend, it’s about levelling the playing field.
“That could be from high-performance equipment to camps, to facility upgrades to recovery and rehabilitation equipment to staffing increases or specialist coaching additions.
“This is for all fans and members, it is an opportunity for them to be a part of a future that they can help shape.
“Anyone can be a part of the vision. They can come on the journey with us.”
The Tigers have exceeded all expectations this season, cementing a spot in the top eight despite being handed a horror draw that pitted them against the top teams from last year.
Story from the Sydney Morning Herald