Canberra Raiders fined $150,000 for shifting NRL game to Wagga
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Canberra Raiders fined $150,000 for shifting NRL game to Wagga

The Canberra Raiders have been slugged with a $150,000 fine for moving a home game to Wagga next year after the ACT government deemed the club was in breach of a deal to play all matches in the capital.

It can be revealed the government will enforce the terms of a contract to play all home games at Canberra Stadium, which includes a financial penalty clause if matches are moved away from the venue.

The Raiders will play against Penrith when they move a home game to Wagga on May 4.

The Raiders will play against Penrith when they move a home game to Wagga on May 4.Credit:AAP

The Raiders hope the situation will be a trigger point for change, with the club keen to negotiate more flexibility into their next stadium contract for 2020 and beyond.

The decision to impose the fine raised eyebrows across the border, particularly with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro given the NSW government committed $4 million to a rugby league centre of excellence in Braddon.

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The financial commitment helped the Raiders secure enough funding to build a $19 million facility at Northbourne Oval, which will also act as a hub for areas including Wagga and Goulburn.

The Raiders will play one game in Wagga on May 4 and another in the city in 2020 and Barilaro hoped the ACT government would back the move to give regional fans a chance to watch NRL.

"The ACT isn't an island. The Raiders are the NRL team for thousands of fans in Southern NSW. Many of the Raiders' greatest players are sons of regional NSW," Barilaro said.

"Stars like Junee's Laurie Daley or Queanbeyan's Terry Campese and Ricky Stuart are titans of the game.

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"If this is how the ACT government is going to treat the Raiders and their fans, then maybe it's time to start thinking about bringing the Raiders back to Seiffert Oval and the investment it would take to make that happen."

The Raiders will meet with government officials early next year to start discussions about a new stadium arrangement with the existing deal to expire at the end of 2019.

The ACT Brumbies will also be watching the developments closely given their stadium agreement ends in 2020, and both Canberra-based clubs are keen to explore opportunities to increase their funding.

It's believed the Raiders and Brumbies are ready to launch a renewed push to have their deals reach a similar level to the $23 million, 10-year arrangement for the GWS Giants to play three AFL games per year at Manuka Oval.

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The ageing state of Canberra Stadium has also been a major bugbear for the Raiders and the Brumbies, who are concerned the venue is falling behind industry standards with no long-term plan to improve it.

Sport Australia is still weighing up an option to sell Canberra Stadium to the ACT government, which has delayed plans to build a new $400 million stadium in Civic.

But ACT sport minister Yvette Berry said the fine had to be imposed for moving an allocated home game from Canberra to Wagga, largely due to logistics of existing security, catering and game-day contracts.

"The ACT government values its longstanding relationship with the Raiders and the benefits they bring the Canberra community, including the major cross-border investment for the new Canberra District Rugby League centre of excellence and community hub," Berry said in a statement.

"Although we support the intent of the Raiders in reaching out to the broader region, it is a requirement of our funding agreement that they play each home NRL game at [Canberra] Stadium given the major investment the ACT community makes in both the stadium and the team."

It's understood the Raiders were disappointed with the government's decision and the club will seek a different arrangement in the new contract.

The government pays $350,000 per year to lease Canberra Stadium for NRL and Super Rugby matches, as well as other events. Buying Canberra Stadium would give the government an option to redevelop the existing venue, or sell the land and invest the money into a Civic stadium.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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