Tigers fall into debt crisis
Tough going ... Chris Heighington has moved on from the Tigers to play for the Sharks from 2013. Photo: Jonathan Ng
WESTS TIGERS, who are believed to be in the hunt to recruit Penrith's NSW Origin centre Michael Jennings, are expected to receive an advance on their share of the billion-dollar broadcast deal from the ARL Commission to help service a $2 million debt.
The mounting debt is further bad news for Tigers fans. The joint-venture club's recent decision to relieve Tim Sheens of his head coaching duties is likely to result in a hefty payout as he still had two years on his contract worth close to $1 million.
''They're going to get a bit of an advance of the code's new TV deal and that will help a bit,'' a source said.
News of the debt has surfaced at a time when the Tigers released Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan to join Cronulla, while promising young centre Blake Ayshford was also told to find a new team. The suggestion that releasing the three popular players was due to salary cap pressure holds little water given the Tigers wanted to clear the decks to recruit Jennings and veteran Manly prop Brent Kite.
The Tigers, who were pre-season premiership favourites, also suffered an unexpected financial hit when they failed to make the finals, meaning they were denied a share of the lucrative bonuses paid to those teams who qualified for the end-of-season series.
While the insider said the debt in itself was not enough to suggest there were any immediate concern about the club's finances, the source said it had the potential to deepen the old tensions between the team's shareholders, Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers. While the Magpies' two licensed clubs at Ashfield and Campbelltown have been powering along, Balmain are deep in debt.
In May, The Sun-Herald was told by Andy Timbs, the then chief executive of the Balmain leagues clubs that are now based at the old Five Dock Bowling Club and at Flemington after the old club at Rozelle shut down, that it was becoming harder to meet their yearly $1.5 million commitment to the venture.
''Obviously, we're half-owners of the Wests Tigers and obviously that would affect that,'' Timbs said of the struggle before his sudden death in June. ''If we continue to operate away from Rozelle we'd find it hard to continue to support [Wests Tigers] but we do our best.
''We always come up with the money … and it is just getting harder and harder each year. It's $1.5 million a year we need to come up with for football and it's hard to get that sort of revenue if you haven't got the big enough business to support it.''
Last week, Wests' Ashfield director Rick Wayde mentioned the so-called ''elephant in the room'' when he told The Sun-Herald there were genuine concerns about Balmain's finances and that they might need to soon consider asking the Magpies for financial help in the running of Wests Tigers.
While Wayde would not be drawn into making any further comment about that issue during the week, he urged Magpies members and fans to attend a meeting at the Wests headquarters in Ashfield today to make it clear they wanted the Magpies represented in next year's NSW Cup. There were plans for Balmain and Wests to form one NSW Cup team next season but Wayde said there was not only a desire for Wests to remain alive but Wests Ashfield had the $400,000 needed to support the team, despite three members said to be against it.
''The idea is to get as many people to attend and send the message to the directors,'' he said. ''It doesn't contravene the joint venture agreement because it's specific that either Wests or Balmain can run a team in any competition outside of the NRL. And the bottom line is Wests Ashfield can afford it. If we couldn't I'd be the first one saying, 'Sorry we can't do it' but the club is trading well enough to fund it.''