BY ANDREW BARCLAY
The Balmain Tigers appear certain to lose their chance to return to their spiritual home in Rozelle after Leichhardt Council claimed it would be too expensive for the club to return to the historic venue.
The concerns come amidst an ongoing feud between the developer and council after the developer said it would only accept the club returning to the site if commercial levels of rent were charged.
Leichhardt Mayor and Labor Councilor Darcy Byrne said the club hadn’t been keeping members adequately informed and that they should “start speaking out and fighting for the interests of members”.
Clr Byrne has written to the Balmain Leagues’ Club management seeking confirmation that the club would be able to afford to move back to Rozelle, under the conditions being imposed by the developer.
The site has been slated for a major apartment and retail redevelopment since 2008, when it was acquired by Pacific Link Investment in a deal that had a nominal value of $1, but included taking over the club’s $22 million debt.
However, developers have consistently failed to get approval for the project due to council and community concern over the development’s height.
The club was expected to gain access to part of the Rozelle site under a 45 year lease at market value, but Mr Byrne said its financial position made this increasingly unlikely.
“The developer Rozelle Village has been claiming recently that the Tigers will not return to Rozelle in the new development under any circumstance,” he said.
Leichhardt Council recently argued before the NSW Land and Environment Court that the current agreement was unacceptable and that space should be made available at an affordable and sustainable cost for the club.
“Through the current legal proceedings we have sought appropriate assurances that the Balmain Tigers will have a secure and permanent home built in the redevelopment, as the developer has promised from day one,” he said.
“Given the Club’s enormous debts, I am very concerned that they will be incapable of paying for the fit-out or the rent and will in fact never return to Rozelle if the developer has its way.”
“Alarmingly in the Club’s 2014 financial statement and report to ASIC, reference to returning to a new venue in Rozelle has been removed altogether.”
However, Rozelle Village director Ian Wright slammed Leichhardt Council for obstructing the development.
“The only way that the Balmain Leagues Club can return to that site is if there is an approval to the current application,” he told City Hub.
“The simple point there is that there is no approval.”
When contacted for comment the Club said they will return to the new development and they have a legally binding right to do so.
“Our Club is still viable today only due to the support given by Rozelle Village after events overtook us,” it said in a statement.
The club’s financial statement for 2014 confirmed the club still has over $11 million dollars in debt outstanding.
President of the Rozelle Resident Action Group, Mark Wallis, agreed it is unlikely the club will return to the site.
He said he supports the idea of the club remaining as part of Rozelle Village, but can’t see it realistically happening under the current terms, given the dire financial position.
“With commercial lease rates, it seems pie in the sky, unless someone wipes out their debts,” he told City Hub.
This most recent development comes after a mediation hearing required by the Land and Environment Court which failed to reach an agreement. The case will proceed to court in March when a final decision i