Rugby League


Go west: Raiders may play in Perth

The Canberra Raiders are negotiating with the NRL about taking a home game to Perth in 2013, lured by the potential of a $250,000 cash injection.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said Canberra's crammed sporting calendar and a lack of regular free-to-air television exposure had forced the Raiders to look at more financial options outside the capital.

The Raiders are already confident of playing an away match against Manly in China next year and are now seriously considering shifting one of their 12 home games to Perth.

Apart from a near sell-out home semi-final against the Cronulla Sharks, the Raiders had their worst crowd figures in more than a decade in 2012, averaging 10,190 fans a game - the lowest in the NRL.

The Raiders require a crowd of almost 10,000 to break even on venue costs at Canberra Stadium and lost money by staging several home matches in 2012.

A home match in Perth would guarantee a profit, estimated to be $250,000, regardless of the crowd figure.


Adding to the temptation is that a Perth game could attract free-to-air television coverage.

A draft version of the NRL draw for the first 20 rounds for next year has allocated just one free-to-air game for the Raiders, limiting exposure for their sponsors.

''We have games where we lose money and you can't stay in business doing that, so you've got to look at other options,'' Furner said.

''We have to always look at ways of maximising our revenue and also maximising our exposure for our sponsors. Sadly, the lack of exposure we get on Channel Nine does force us to look at all these ways, as do AFL teams and other NRL teams.

''I'm not saying it's going to happen, but we're certainly looking at it.''

The Raiders are contracted by the ACT government and Canberra Stadium to play all 12 home matches in the national capital, so the club would need to seek dispensation.

The Raiders also anticipate a backlash from some Canberra-based fans and are exploring contingencies for those who have already purchased 2013 memberships.

If the Perth match went ahead, Furner said the Raiders would look at reimbursing fans part of their membership fees or potentially offering discount tickets to the Anzac Test at Canberra Stadium in April.

''We've got a once in 100 years Test match between Australia and New Zealand in April, a game that probably won't happen again [in Canberra]. I'd say that's a fantastic substitute for rugby league supporters,'' he said.

Furner has been a vocal critic of the AFL's similar move into the ACT. The ACT government has funded a 10-year-deal for Greater Western Sydney to play four games annually in Canberra.

Furner said it had crowded the Canberra sporting market, which already struggles for corporate support. ''This is not an anti-AFL thing from me, there's just too much [sporting teams] and there's not enough dollars here,'' he said.

''It's a very competitive market … you've got a lot of choice for other people and we have to look at other options.''

Furner is confident the Raiders are still on track to participate in the NRL's first premiership match in China next year.

But he conceded time was running out for the fixture, which would be Manly's home game, to be scheduled as the NRL season-opener.


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