Saints can
bank on Major Sponsor

With only a month remaining before the start of the season and no major sponsor secured, St George Illawarra are nevertheless confident the team won?t appear in ?clean skin? jerseys come the first round.

Overlooking proceedings at the Dragons? Charity Shield launch today, CEO Peter Doust said negotiations with prospective major sponsors were ?close to being finalised?.

Declining to identify any parties involved in discussions, Doust rejected speculation that a deal to upgrade sleeve sponsor St George Bank?s commitment had been all but struck only to fall through at the eleventh hour.

?No that?s not true,? he replied.

Asked if that necessarily meant the Bank?s logo would remain on the sleeve throughout 2004, Doust said: ?No? well St.George Bank are contracted to be our sleeve sponsor until the end of 2004.?

Pressed further on whether any promising negotiations had involved parties with a current or former connection to the club, he added: ?It?s hard to say at this stage. Major sponsorships are very complex negotiations, so we just can?t say we?ll be certain [of having a major sponsor for the first game of the premiership], but I?m confident.?

At present St George Illawarra is one of only two NRL clubs to be without a major sponsor. The other is fellow joint venture outfit, Wests Tigers.

Doust revealed that an independent valuation of the famous Red V concluded that a major sponsorship was worth up to $1.5 million per season.

While a deal of such magnitude would easily eclipse any other on record, Doust rated an annual figure closer to $1 million as a ?reasonable return.?

He agreed the NSW Government?s incoming Poker Machine tax hike had increased pressure on NRL teams, many of which rely on funding from Leagues Clubs expected to be heavily hit by the levy, to derive more from their brands.

?Certainly with the impact of the gaming tax, we?re all very concerned about what that might mean for us.?