Warriors Push on with Base Plans

Ericsson Stadium development plans will go ahead, despite a suggestion from Sydney yesterday that the Warriors would not get the 10-year franchise licence needed for the Auckland Regional Council to commit itself to the project.

The Warriors and Ericsson management said they would go back to the NRL to push their case.

When Eric Watson bought the club with minority partners he picked up the existing four-year licence and there are two to go on that.

The NRL and the new owners already have agreement in principle for extension to that by a further five years.

That is subject only to provisions that govern all 15 franchisees - they lose it if they go bankrupt.

With the best sponsorship in the league, the best return for the NRL because of television rights in both Australia and New Zealand, the Warriors consider themselves to be a sitter for a licence extension to the end of the 2009 season anyway.

The council wants a guarantee through to the end of the 2012 season.

The finance plan put to the NRL does not depend on ratepayer money provided the Warriors commit to rental for the ground, their offices, gym, supporters' facilities and so on for 10 years.

The $21 million required to replace, expand and cover the existing temporary seating and build what the Warriors want beneath is to be borrowed, with repayment over 15 years.

So there is an eight-year gap, instead of the five-year one the council wanted.

If they want a stadium in Penrose they have to develop it. The eastern stand that is to be replaced was built with a two-year life expectancy and fans won't put up with it forever.

There was Sydney politics behind the NRL board stomping on what its executives suggested was virtually a done-deal when they visited the stadium recently.

Struggling inner-city sides don't want to see the New Zealanders get the first 10-year guarantee. Five years is the longest given so far.

Warriors and stadium management said they would regroup and go back to the NRL to again push the cause. NRL chief David Gallop's only comment gave some comfort: "I will go back to them [the Warriors/ARC] with a position which should give them the comfort they need for the redevelopment to proceed." He then reiterated that there would be no 10-year licence.

Warriors chief executive Mick Watson said he took that positively, whereas it was received as a thumbs-down in Sydney. ARC stadium management say they need certainty.