Engaging Telstra deal and Kogarah rejected by Dragons

6 August 2005

OKI Jubilee Stadium won?t be hosting a home final in 2005 after the Dragons announced yesterday that they desire to play a home final at Wollongong?s WIN Stadium.

Despite Dragons? CEO Peter Doust admitting in the Illawarra Mercury on Monday that the Dragons could hire adequate lighting for a home final, Kogarah missed out due to issues relating to ??spectator capacity, broadcast quality lighting and corporate and change room facilities.?

The Dragons rejected a lucrative offer from Telstra Stadium to host the home final, while it appears that Aussie Stadium wasn?t considered despite the fact that it hosts a St.George-Illawarra home game once every two years and has a capacity of 40,000.

The decision highlights three key issues:

1.The OKI Jubilee Steering Committee must use the remaining Federal funding in an efficient manner to overcome OKI Jubilee Stadium?s perceived deficiencies, thus ensuring that the St.George District?s premier sporting facility remains competitive with other venues.

2.The current lease agreement with WIN Stadium doesn?t promote equity within the joint venture relationship and a continuation of a 7/5 split in the Illawarra?s favour beyond 2005 could be detrimental to rugby league in the St.George region. 3.Any post 2005 lease agreement between the Dragons and WIN Stadium management must take account of possible home finals and the Dragons ongoing commitment to the ANZAC Day clash.

While the Dragons listed Kogarah?s perceived shortcomings, it?s disappointing that no effort was made to explain how the Federal funding would overcome these issues. Kogarah?s capacity is currently capped at 17,000 compared to WIN Stadium?s 19,500 and the Dragons should be able to explain the enhancements that will be made to Kogarah in order to increase the capacity towards 20,000. While the Dragons have briefly mentioned a possible eastern grandstand behind the hill, efforts should be made to examine the feasibility of extending the existing grandstand and reconfiguring Kogarah by bringing in the boundaries to create a rectangular playing field instead of an oval.

The delay in the finalisation of the permanent lighting to mid-October has obviously been detrimental to Kogarah?s chances of hosting a final, but the statement relating to corporate and change room facilities is somewhat curious. While the corporate facilities at Kogarah were criticised, Peter Doust has previously stated that Dragons gain a ??bigger return from corporate hospitality? at Kogarah compared to WIN Stadium. On this basis, it cannot be determined how Kogarah?s corporate facilities have contributed to the venue missing out on a home final.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the lack of ?dressing rooms for lower grade semi-finalists? was the problem relating to Kogarah?s change room facilities. Clearly, this is an issue that could have been overcome through negotiation with the NRL or through using the Club?s new demountable gymnasium building at 49 English Street as a temporary dressing room for lower grade semi-finalists. There is also no satisfactory explanation why the lower grade semi-finals couldn?t have been played at a different venue or at Kogarah on a different date.

With Wollongong set to host a home final following the Dragons success against the Cowboys at Townsville, the Dragons must ensure that any future lease agreement with WIN Stadium ensures equity between the St.George and Illawarra regions. WIN Stadium has enjoyed a 7/5 advantage since 2002 and a home final would mean that Wollongong has hosted 15 games over the past two seasons compared to a mere 9 at Kogarah.

To help address the clear imbalance between the two regions, the Dragons should deduct the 2006 ANZAC Day match from Wollongong?s allocation and ensure that 6 NRL matches are played at OKI Jubilee Stadium. The decision by the Dragons to host the ANZAC Day match at Aussie Home Loans Stadium shouldn't continually be at the expense of the St.George District and a failure to deduct the match from WIN Stadium?s allocation of home games every four years would be inequitable and unacceptable. Similarly any additional home finals that are granted to WIN Stadium going forward should be deducted from WIN Stadium?s allocation the following year to ensure that the St.George District is treated equitably.

If Wollongong isn?t in a position to make a sacrifice in relation to the ANZAC Day match, the Dragons should abandon hosting the match at Aussie Stadium. If the Dragons can afford to reject a lucrative offer by Telstra Stadium to host a home final, there is no necessity for the Dragons to espouse the commercial advantages of hosting the ANZAC Day match at Aussie Home Loans Stadium.