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Marwan Koukash: I want to own an NRL club in time for next year's kickoff

Interested: British billionaire Marwan Koukash (right) want ownership of an NRL team prior to next season.

Interested: British billionaire Marwan Koukash (right) want ownership of an NRL team prior to next season. Photo: Getty Images

Marwan Koukash is prepared to pay cash up front in an attempt to fulfil his ambition of purchasing an NRL team before next year's kick off.

Koukash already owns the Salford Red Devils, saving the Super League club from financial ruin, and has now turned his attention to an Australian club.

While the British billionaire wouldn't divulge the "two or three clubs" he is in discussions with, Newcastle are believed to be among them.

Like Nathan Tinkler, whose tumultuous stint as Knights owner recently came to an end, Koukash said he would be prepared to provide a bank guarantee to allay concerns he wouldn't be around for the long term.

"If it needs to be done, I'd do it," Koukash said. "People only need to look at the level of investment I put in Salford to see that I would do that.

"I've been working on two or three fronts. Obviously not everything is in my hands, it's in the hands of other people as well. I'm just trying to see if something can be finalised at the start of next season.

"I've had discussions with [NRL CEO] Dave Smith and [NRL's head of club services] Tony Crawford. That's up to them to decide, it would be great to have the support."

Koukash is the ultimate rags to riches tale. Palestinian born, as an eight-year-old he had to walk with his family for three days without food after the family farm was bombed.

He didn't own a pair of shoes until he was 12. Today, he is worth an estimated $3 billion, with most of his wealth derived from the establishment of a corporate training company.

During Tinkler's reign, there was a disconnect between the Knights and the community of Newcastle.

However, Koukash said he never forgot the fans, pointing to the fact he is setting up a Salford advisory panel comprised of supporters.

"Most importantly, I am a guy who listens very much to the fans," he said.

"In every business I have, I've always consulted with the customers and rugby league is no different.

"For example, I don't have a boardroom full of [Reds] directors advising me what to do.

"Instead, I'm going to [implement] a fan's panel. There are about 200 applications I have received and I'm going to choose about 12 of them, who will be advising me on issues within the club.

"I'm somebody who is a lot closer to the fans and I'm also a great believer in sometimes you can't buy success. It's something you need to develop, especially in a game like rugby league.

"I think that's the best model, there's no one closer to the action than the fan."

With the majority of NRL clubs operating at a loss or just breaking even, it would be difficult for the ARLC to knock back Koukash's millions.

But the racing magnate, who is expected to again enter runners into the Melbourne Cup, could find privatisation a tough sell after the Tinkler debacle.

It's understood the NRL won't be rushing into any decision, particularly in relation to Newcastle given the governing body is still sourcing independent directors for the club.

"I hope they do [give the green light] because it's a competition I admire," Koukash said.

"Since I started in rugby league in this part of the world I've always had ambitions to grow the game here to compete with the NRL. If you can't beat them, you might as well join them."

WHO WANTS TO BE BOUGHT BY A BILLIONAIRE?

The clubs most likely in Marwan Koukash's sights.

NEWCASTLE: The most obvious target for a takeover following Nathan Tinkler's demise. However, Novocastrians are sceptical about the private ownership model following the bitter experiences under the Hunter Sports Group's ownership. The NRL is partly filling the ownership void at present and has slated its desire to offload the club to a suitable investor. Self-made billionaires with a penchant for horses and footy clubs could be a tough sell to Knights fans at present.

CRONULLA:  Have lurched from one disaster to the next and are without a major sponsor for next year. The ASADA scandal has conservatively cost the Sharks $4 million and that figure could rise if more players join Josh Cordoba, Broderick Wright and Isaac Gordon succeed in suing the club for negligence. The much-vaunted property redevelopment is said to underpin the financial future of Cronulla but there will be little monetary benefit in the short term.

WESTS TIGERS: Has been a basketcase off the field. Balmain's perilous financial position has been much reported, with directors from that side of the joint venture set to forgo voting rights in exchange for the NRL making up the shortfall. Delays in the governing body appointing three independent directors have created a void in leadership at the top.

DRAGONS: Another joint venture struggling financially, the Dragons also had to go to the NRL cap in hand for assistance. Like most clubs, can no longer simply rely on propagation payments from the leagues clubs to keep the football side in the black.

GOLD COAST: Under so much financial pressure they are not spending all of their full salary cap allowance. Punting coach John Cartwright, who is still on the payroll for two additional seasons, won't help. Losing the battle for hearts, minds and memberships to the Gold Coast Suns, while the fallout from the ill-fated Titans Centre of excellence continues.

27 comments

  • There is a fundamental difference between Koukash and Tinkler. The former loves Rugby League. For the latter, it was simply one of many toys he prematurely shouted himself.

    Commenter
    Joe the expat
    Location
    The Hague.
    Date and time
    August 27, 2014, 1:29AM
    • This guy is seriously rich. He's not a fly by night. He's in it for the long haul.
      It would be great for Rugby League here if he took over the Gold Coast Titans, or any other poor performing clubs.

      Commenter
      Red Top
      Date and time
      August 27, 2014, 5:52AM
      • Can you make money out of a NRL franchise?

        Commenter
        Reg
        Location
        Jervis Bay
        Date and time
        August 27, 2014, 5:54AM
        • Reg,

          Indeed you can make money out of an NRL franchise, a small fortune in fact...... if you start with a large one.

          Commenter
          MercurialMattyV
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          August 27, 2014, 7:05AM
        • That's funny Reg.

          Commenter
          bronte
          Date and time
          August 27, 2014, 8:06AM
        • Ask the owners of the Broncos

          Commenter
          Jacko
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          August 27, 2014, 12:01PM
      • Under Eric Watson, the Warriors have been making profits for a few years now. It can be done just got to have the right people in place. If this guy does get the opportunity to buy a club, i hope it's the Sharks, they could do with a good bit of luck, and no i'm not a Sharks fan, just a footy fan

        Commenter
        Disrespectful Dingo
        Location
        Stillwater NZ
        Date and time
        August 27, 2014, 6:51AM
        • Apparently the Knights are "owned" by the NRL now (not sure how that worked out, reckon the members would have a case if they had the money to challenge). But clearly that hasn't brought any financial stability. We're losing or have lost something like a dozen players and only signing two. Reading between the lines from the CEO the Knights have no money to spend.

          I'm not keen on another billionaire because Tinkler was a disaster. But it might be better than being another club that's not spending its salary cap and is only there to make up the numbers.

          Watching the Eagles, Roosters and Storm trade premierships year in and year out might be good for those clubs and supporters but it's bad for the game over all.

          Commenter
          Seano
          Date and time
          August 27, 2014, 6:57AM
          • Would welcome him buying the Balmain side out. giving back voting rights to Balmain Tigers board members and FANS . Then send a letter to ALL West magpies supporters showing them it was the BALMAIN side that funded THEM when we first merged..

            Commenter
            swill
            Location
            queensland
            Date and time
            August 27, 2014, 7:13AM
            • Swill is right. Balmain were the financial force when the Wests Tigers kicked off. Now the pendulum has swung to the Magpies. I've followed the Magpies since the mid 60s and would love to see them standing alone. The reality is it won't happen. The Wests Tigers has a brand which is highly marketable and attractive to someone like Marwan Koukash. Lets get the Wests Tigers financed by Marwan so at the very least we can get rid of Grant Meyer who is a weight around their necks.

              Commenter
              The Dog
              Location
              Haberfield
              Date and time
              August 27, 2014, 8:12AM

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