The warring factions at Wests Tigers have declared peace after agreeing to a new independent board in exchange for NRL funding.
In a watershed moment that will be welcome news for concerned fans of the joint venture, Fairfax Media can reveal Balmain and Wests directors have agreed to a restructure in order to survive in the face of deep financial issues. The NRL has committed to loans during the restructure negotiations, based on the club meeting key targets.
It follows weeks of negotiations between the two parties after the NRL commissioned an independent report into the club's finances and governance in May.
While stressing the club was still under immense financial pressure, NRL chief executive Dave Smith is adamant the Tigers' future is now secure. ''There is now a deep commitment from all parties to make the joint venture a success and to give Wests Tigers fans and members the certainty they deserve,'' Smith said.
''The club has faced a number of financial difficulties and the starting point is to change the way things are being done rather than provide additional revenue.
''The Wests Tigers, Wests and Balmain boards all recognised this and the need to work together in developing a way forward. This is about addressing underlying issues so that the Wests Tigers can have a strong foundation and an even stronger future so members and fans can be confident about getting behind their team.''
As Fairfax Media reported last month, powerful stakeholder Wests Ashfield Leagues club wanted control of the board in order to provide an immediate $1 million cash injection needed to prevent Wests Tigers from becoming insolvent.
The Balmain side of the Tigers - which is crippled by $9.5 million in debt because of its failed redevelopment of its leagues club at Rozelle - wanted to pursue a more independent model to ensure financial assistance from the NRL.
Directors from both sides of the joint venture will now meet with the NRL on a weekly basis to navigate the club out of its financial predicament. It remains to be seen how the newly formed board will look, and who the independent directors will be.
''There is a lot of work to do but a lot of the issues of the past have been put to one side so that we can all focus on the future while respecting our heritage,'' Wests Ashfield chief executive Simon Cook said. ''The NRL process allows us to work together and concentrate on what can happen rather than what has happened.''
Wests Tigers deputy chairman Nick Di Girolamo, who is a director of Balmain, said: ''Everyone is aware of the challenges we have faced over the last couple of years and it's time we all moved on in the interests of the club, the players, the members and the fans.
''We all see the need to let go of past disputes so we can deliver success for the members and fans. The NRL is helping everyone leave their baggage behind.''
The peace - for now - between the two factions comes less than a month after the Wests Tigers threatened to degenerate into civil war. Balmain were furious when Fairfax Media reported that the Magpies wanted control of the club if they were to bail out the joint venture financially.
''Wests made an offer to Balmain Tigers recently, as outlined in the Herald article, which was confidential and which was to be considered by the Balmain Tigers board this evening [Tuesday],'' Balmain chairman Leslie Glen said at the time.
''The leaking of that offer and the comments by Mike Bailey is seen by me, at least, as a betrayal of trust and an indication of disrespect from our partners at Wests Ashfield.''
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/wests-tigers-agree-deal-for-nrl-bailout-20130913-2tq9h.html#ixzz2ep5CCni3