By Jeff Wall, Crikey’s rugby league
writer


The move by Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court to
acquire a controlling interest in the South Rabbitohs
provides a significant challenge for club members and supporters alike, but it
also provides an opportunity they would be unwise to dismiss out of
hand.

They really have two options – they can bury their heads
in the burrows and pretend (and that’s what it is in reality) that all is well,
and the Rabbitohs can not only survive, but do very
well in a very competitive competition depending on handouts from the NRL, a few
sponsors and licensed clubs.

Or they can face up to reality – and that reality is that handouts from the league are not going to grow
anywhere near enough to adequately fund a competitive team; that sponsors’
dollars depend on performance as much as tradition or anything else; and the
future of gaming machine driven revenue from leagues clubs is
uncertain.

For my money, the Rabbitohs
have a choice between a reasonable level of security and certainty when in
majority private ownership, or continuing, and perhaps growing, uncertainty
under the existing structure.

But they must look beyond the cash on offer – and the
medium term financial security private ownership would undoubtedly provide – if
they are prepared to negotiate a sale of their club.

Supporters need to focus on how best to secure the
club’s future in a way that preserves as many of its traditions as
possible. And the club needs to give the rank and file members and supporters at the very least
the right to be consulted by the owners on a genuine and regular basis – even
though the final say will rest with the new owners.

Done properly, this could be a “model”
privatisation and if anyone thinks there won’t be more private ownerships of
NRL clubs they are kidding only themselves.

The full story is on the website here.

Peter Fray

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