Vodafone Warriors chairman Bill Wavish has challenged Regional Facilities Auckland over the Mount Smart Stadium debate. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

Vodafone Warriors challenge RFA

Vodafone Warriors chairman Bill Wavish has had an open letter published in the New Zealand Herald today in which he says Regional Facilities Auckland has misled the public over the Mount Smart Stadium debate.

He has also made available communications from Vodafone Warriors owner Eric Watson, NRL chief executive Dave Smith and RFA chief exective Robert Domm.

Here is Wavish's open letter in full followed by the related correspondence from Watson, Domm and Smith.

 

OPINION - BILL WAVISH, VODAFONE WARRIORS CHAIRMAN

The plan by Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) to force the Vodafone Warriors to move to Eden Park or Albany after 2018 may, at first, seem a neat and tidy solution for various sports, but in the Warriors’ view, it is deeply flawed and biased.

We have been in frustrating and non-productive discussions with the RFA and its outgoing chief executive Robert Domm for well over two years regarding RFA breaches of the Warriors’ current lease at Mt Smart Stadium, and future stadium plans.

Fortunately Mr Domm is leaving the RFA soon, and we look forward to more productive and transparent discussions with his successor. Discussions with Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town and ATEED (Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development) chief executive Brett O’Reilly give us some optimism. We note Mayor Len Brown’s advice for everyone to draw breath for a while before we resume discussions with a new cast.

In my view, Mr Domm’s advice now that the Vodafone Warriors will be forced to leave Mt Smart Stadium completely contradicts a number of previous discussions and assurances regarding our home base beyond 2018. In a letter dated May 18, 2012 which was responding to a Warriors letter dated May 11, 2012; Mr Domm wrote:

“RFA regards the NZ Warriors as both a partner and an important long-term tenant at Mt Smart. Regardless of the fact that your current licence arrangements expire in about six years’ time, RFA is committed to retaining the Warriors at Mt Smart going forward. We regard Mt Smart as the Warriors’ home, training and playing base.”

Given this assurance and the knowledge that if it was not viable we could remain at Mt Smart, we supported the proposed RFA Stadium Strategy by fully trialling Eden Park.

However, in my opinion, Mr Domm’s swansong press releases and interviews have left public opinion (and councillors) misinformed in the interim. It is our belief that Mr Domm is misleading the public by giving the impression that the $73.4 million proposal for Mt Smart is what the Vodafone Warriors are demanding the council to spend on Mt Smart in order to remain there. This couldn’t be further from the truth and there needs to be complete transparency on this publicly.

What is factually correct is that in 2012, at the request of the RFA, we submitted a number of options for our future and were invited to describe what a fully upgraded Mt Smart could look like.

Option one was for enhancements and refurbishment of a number of items in poor condition because of (by Mr Domm’s admission) insufficient council investment.

It would see Mt Smart upgraded to an international-standard 30,000-seat stadium with a fully refurbished western stand and permanent north and south stand facilities. The east stand would be completed, with new entrances, upgraded sound and audio systems, sealed car parks and a master entrance.

We believed a refurbishment of this nature would firmly establish Mt Smart as the home of rugby league in New Zealand, including for NRL finals and test matches. It would also enhance the venue for other financially lucrative events such as concerts and other football codes.

After providing this document we met RFA on November 8, 2012, where they advised a refurbishment of this nature was estimated to cost $60 million (excluding a multi-level car park proposed solely by RFA).

As discussed and confirmed in the meeting notes the Vodafone Warriors advised:

“The $60 million estimate was not prepared or proposed by the NZW [New Zealand Warriors] but was based on what we described as the ideal Mt Smart stadium eg 30,000 premium seats, etc. RFA to provide the concept plan and detailed budget this was based on. NZW will assess the “utopia” Mt Smart upgrade and provide some feedback on what changes to occur to make it more viable eg reduce capacity with finals at Eden Park, etc.”

We met RFA again on November 19, 2012 and in a follow-up email to Mr Domm that day noted among other items from the meeting:

“Due to investment in Eden Park and other council priorities there is little potential for a full upgrade of Mt Smart main arena to the 30,000 international standard option put forward by the Warriors in July. RFA estimate this would require $60 million and is unlikely to be feasible or supported by council.

“Presently there is $15 million confirmed by council for Mt Smart over the next 10 years. Whilst this is predominantly earmarked for the main arena the end result will mainly only be long overdue maintenance items achieved, all health and safety issues resolved and some minor improvements. No major capital improvements (eg new end stands will be achieved) as part of the $15 million spend.

“However subject to council sign off there is potential for an approx. $10 million investment from council to be added to the $15 million and for this investment to be prioritised and brought forward (potentially next three years). This would enable a more substantial upgrade of Mt Smart to occur based on a capacity of approx. 20,000 permanent seats but does not guarantee any further development of Mt Smart beyond that.”

The following day (November 20, 2012) we again wrote to Mr Domm stating:

“As agreed at the meeting (which predominantly focused on the Warrior future playing strategy), we have agreed to “keep alive” and assess the two most likely options at this point:

1. Mt Smart $25 million investment with most Auckland regular season games played there but finals and blockbuster games at Eden Park and;

2. Eden Park for all Auckland regular season games and all Warriors finals matches.

“For the club to be able to reach a decision we will need to fully evaluate both options, and consider a proposed heads of agreement on both options. I appreciate preparing the information may take longer than had hoped for yesterday so if we need to work through into early next year then we have to do this. This is not a decision that we can be expected to reach without full and detailed consideration.  We also understand the council commitment to public consultation.”

In November 2012 we also received from RFA a concept for an excellent upgrade option including enhancements for increased concert activity for Mt Smart stadium to 20,000 permanent seats, which included a new north stand featuring 4000 covered seats. This would certainly cost far less than $70 million (probably close to the $25 million already earmarked), and I wonder why, until the October 7 2014 Herald article, Mr Domm and RFA conveniently forgot to mention this option to the public?

I repeat, the Vodafone Warriors have never insisted on $73.4 million being spent on Mt Smart in order for the club to remain here.

We firmly believe refurbishment around the existing capacity and in the region of the $25 million already outlined by RFA would enhance Mt Smart as a boutique football and entertainment venue; that when operated properly would be very financially viable.

Ironically in September this year the Herald reported that Auckland Council was considering removing the $3.7 million three-year-old Te Wero bridge linking the Viaduct Harbour with Wynyard Quarter and building a $25 million replacement bridge. It seems a huge expense of taxpayers’ money but it’s a great example of where there is a will, they find the money.

But back to stadium issues.

Eden Park has a capacity of 46,000, it’s built in a residential precinct, with virtually no parking making it uneconomic for most events, which may be a blessing given under an agreement with residents the number of annual uses is actually limited. It is unusually expensive to operate because of its size, transport requirements due to no parking, and security staffing in surrounding residential streets. The NRL confirmed this in an independent study of stadiums and advised the RFA in writing.

The Vodafone Warriors' home crowds average about 18,000, but in order for using Eden Park to stack up economically, it needs a blockbuster crowd of more than 25,000.

Consequently the RFA need cricket to get out of Eden Park given its test match crowds average around 4000 to 5000 a day and see Mt Smart as the only option for speedway, hence their desire to get the Warriors out of Mt Smart, regardless of the consequences to us and others.

So under the new plan cricket goes to Western Springs at a cost of $12 million. Speedway draws crowds of 10,000 to 12,000 and the plan is to house them at Mt Smart at a cost of a $5 million upgrade, leaving the Vodafone Warriors to shift to Albany for most of their home games because, at an initial cost of $12 million to upgrade North Harbour. (They have not mentioned the cost of the future roof.)

Surely the same issues with previous poor maintenance and inadequate capital improvement investment by the RFA, and previously the Auckland Regional Council, still exist whether it is for the Vodafone Warriors, other football codes, concerts or for speedway?

Let’s make it very clear. We understand rationalising of facilities and making each one top quality makes sense. The Vodafone Warriors have never said that we want Mt Smart solely to ourselves. We would be very happy to share the facilities with other codes such as football, rugby union and its ITM Cup, or other suitable candidates that fit into a rectangular facility of this size.

Mr Domm has raised the fact that Vodafone Warriors has private ownership, however so do the Blues, the Phoenix, the Breakers and the majority of concert promoters; all of whom are customers like us who hire venues like Mt Smart at commercial rates. Are they all being asked to financially contribute to the capital and maintenance costs of the venues of Auckland or should it be the obligation of RFA to ensure these venues are properly maintained, commercially viable, economically positive for the city, well managed; and available for the people of Auckland (and visitors) to enjoy?

Mr Domm now says via the Herald that the Vodafone Warriors didn’t get back to RFA after initial discussions on the $25 million upgrade plan but again he is simply not correct.

Vodafone Warriors co-owner Eric Watson emailed RFA Chairman Sir Don McKinnon on July 6 2014 to progress the $25 million upgrade. He again reminded RFA of the option to invest $25 million into Mt Smart as one of two options agreed in November 2012 to be progressed; and that as advised by Mr Domm on November 20 2012, RFA was to complete a heads of agreement so that this could be properly advanced. As with a number of other things I believe have been mismanaged by RFA, the agreement was never completed.

Among other items our notes (which were sent to RFA) from the November 19 2012 meeting recorded:

“Following our meeting today we agreed to progress further detail and assess the following two options: 1. The $25 million investment into Mt Smart as a 20,000 approx permanent capacity venue, with all finals and any ‘blockbuster’ regular season games played at Eden Park. The Warriors would also remain based at Mt Smart (either in existing facilities or in a new high performance and admin centre). 2. The Warriors playing all Auckland regular season games and all finals at Eden Park but remaining based at Mt Smart in a new high performance training and admin base (existing facilities likely to not be practical if speedway located on main arena).

“For both of these options to be assessed we will need to determine key elements of a new agreement, venue terms, term of contract, operational costs of venues, settlement if moving to Eden Park, tenancy for admin/training base, council support of high performance concept, council (RFA, Ateed, Auckland Transport) support of games at Eden Park, etc.”

Throughout this whole process the Vodafone Warriors have been trying to work with the RFA to achieve a result that suits all parties. Unfortunately though, as pointed out in Mr Watson’s note to Sir Don on July 6, 2014, I believe the RFA have been consistently poor in their communication and management of the stadium project. This has frustrated many involved. But this is not our only problem with the RFA led by Mr Domm. In our opinion they have been trying to force the Vodafone Warriors out of Mt Smart for some time by not honouring the existing lease to 2018.Normal maintenance has been minimised and a number of contractual clauses breached. This came to a head earlier this year when they leased out two blocked-off regular football season nights for two Eagles concerts in contravention of the lease. The RFA then tried to cleanse this breach by writing to the NRL, who are not a party to the lease. Logically the NRL referred them back to the Vodafone Warriors, in writing. We are of the strong opinion that the RFA cynically breached the lease (as opposed to not having been aware of the terms) on the grounds that any damages awarded by any subsequent court case would be dwarfed by the multi-million-dollar Eagles income. However a principle of common law is that one cannot benefit from a breach and thus a court case or judicial review is likely. The Vodafone Warriors acknowledge that the tone of recent discussions with the council and ATEED have been constructive, and the tone of the mayor conciliatory. They are happy to look to a more measured planning process and a more transparent approach over the coming years. In our view, for whatever reason, Mr Domm is not providing the facts, and as chairman of the Vodafone Warriors I have written this in such detail to set the record straight, especially for the benefit of our loyal members and, importantly, so the wider public and councillors have the facts. We encourage our members and fans to seek support from their councillors as we move toward the next elections.

 

EMAIL FROM ERIC WATSON TO RFA CHAIRMAN SIR DON McKINNON

From: Eric Watson Sent: 06 July 2014 14:53 To: Sir Don McKinnon Cc: Bill Wavish Subject: RE: Letter re Warriors

Dear Sir Don,

Thank you for your letter dated 25 June 2014.

Whilst I agree with you there is no benefit in a tit for tat approach, you are misinformed or incorrect on a number of points which I need to clarify.

Firstly, allow me to assure you that prior to their meeting with RFA, ATEED and Eden Park representatives on 29 May both Mark and Wayne (and others within the club) fully evaluated both the Eden Park and RFA offers. Prior to this meeting significant financial analysis was performed and other factors were considered by our venue project team with a resulting summary paper prepared for the Warriors Board. As our internal correspondence will confirm a final paper and recommendation was only sent to the Board and a decision made on 28 May 2014, ahead of the meeting scheduled for the next day. Following this report there was unanimous Board support to not push forward with a move to Eden Park for the 2015 season, so you are also incorrect to claim as you have been advised that a decision was made one week prior.

At the meeting you refer to on 29 May, Eden Park CEO David Kennedy also vented his frustration at the disjointed and unproductive process led by RFA in trying to reach a solution for the Warriors to be able to move to Eden Park. David also commented that he would not wish to continue any future dialogue unless the process was managed more professionally. RFA’s leadership in this process has been poor to say the least. We have been in discussion with RFA and full council since 2012 on the potential to move to Eden Park and at this point are further away than ever on this being achievable. You personally attended a meeting (also attended by Sir Owen) in November 2012 along with others from RFA and council representatives where, from our notes of that meeting (which were received by RFA), amongst others things, the following were noted:

· Presently there is $15M confirmed by council for Mt Smart over the next 10 years. Whilst this is predominantly earmarked for the main arena the end result will mainly only be long overdue maintenance items achieved, all health & safety issues resolved and some minor improvements. No major capital improvements (e.g. new end stands will be achieved) as part of the $15M spend.

· However subject to council sign off there is potential for an approx. $10M investment from council to be added to the $15M and for this investment to be prioritised and brought forward (potentially next 3years). This would enable a more substantial upgrade of Mt Smart to occur based on a capacity of approx. 20,000 permanent seats but does not guarantee any further development of Mt Smart beyond that.

· As we discussed Eden Park has been able to work for a one off blockbuster event as the attendance and support received from the NRL supports this. However the existing terms, higher operating cost, traffic management, integrated ticketing, lack of parking, lack of atmosphere, etc. remain issues to resolve before the Warriors could fully consider a permanent move to Eden Park (where if we played all games average attendances would be lower than the one-offs).

· Following our meeting today we agreed to progress further detail and assess the following 2 options:

1. The $25M investment into Mt Smart as a 20,000 approx permanent capacity venue, with all finals and any ‘blockbuster’ regular season games played at Eden Park. The Warriors would also remain based at Mt Smart (either in existing facilities or in a new high performance and admin centre).

2. The Warriors playing all Auckland regular season games and all finals at Eden Park but remaining based at Mt Smart in a new high performance training and admin base (existing facilities likely to not be practical if speedway located on main arena).

For both of these options to be assessed we will need to determine key elements of a new agreement, venue terms, term of contract, operational costs of venues, settlement if moving to Eden Park, tenancy for admin/ training base, council support of high performance concept, Council (RFA, ATEED, Auckland Transport) support of games at Eden Park, etc.

In response to our notes of this meeting your CEO advised on 20 November 2012 “My clear understanding at the conclusion of yesterday’s meeting was that Owen Glenn and NZ Warriors are seeking a degree of certainty from Council at its later December (2012) meeting. To this end, RFA has commenced drafting a proposed heads of agreement setting out a commercial framework for future playing and training strategy that could be considered by your board and then by Council within this short timeframe.”.

Having not received any such HoA from RFA we then also attended a meeting arranged by Auckland CEO Doug McKay in June 2013, where the commitment to progress was again made, led by RFA. Wayne reminded your CEO of this in a further note on 22 August 2013 when he said “Robert: you were also going to come back to me regarding a recommended ‘where to from here’ re the longer term view. Happy to catch up next week should you wish to discuss further.” Again nothing was progressed by RFA.

Finally, out of concern that no progress or action had been forthcoming from RFA and our May 2014 deadline for a 2015 move Wayne then wrote to ATEED CEO Brett O’Riley in the email you refer to dated 30 April 2014 again expressing concern about the lack of progress or even contact from RFA. This note was circulated by Brett to others in council which appears to have finally prompted some action by RFA; albeit it too little too late. Contrary to your comments about us wasting time and even allowing for the public consultation process also under way (which we responded to); perhaps you could clarify why it then took from 2012 until 9 May 2014 to receive any proposal from RFA?

RFA have discussed with us overcoming things like lower costs at Eden Park, reconfiguring to rectangular shape to enhance fan experience, scheduling concerns, sustainable financials for the club no worse than our current position, etc. None of these matters have been either resolved or in some cases even addressed in either the RFA or Eden Park offers recently presented, and will have to be for us to consider a future at Eden Park.

Yes we have rejected the Eden Park offer outright and given the nature of what was presented saw no point in trying further to reach agreement in the short time frame available for a 2015 move to occur. This decision is supported by your own CEO’s comments in a recent meeting with Mark and Wayne (with Paul Nisbet also in attendance) where Robert said he was embarrassed to put forward the terms prepared by Eden Park to the Warriors. If this was the case and there was a ‘complete package’ approach being prepared by the RFA who we are continually told are leading this project; wouldn’t it have made sense for the RFA to go back to Eden Park first before presenting the terms to the Warriors. Robert is unfortunately correct in his comments though. Despite the Warriors fully disclosing our Mt Smart Licence Agreement (with RFA’s approval) to Eden Park, then us holding two separate day workshops (initiated by us) in 2013 with Eden Park on both commercial terms and fan enhancement/operational matters; all of which resulted in us being presented with a slightly amended Eden Park casual hire agreement and terms that are completely unacceptable. For it to take nearly two years to receive what RFA says is an “embarrassing offer” is completely a waste of our time. Our decision was also communicated to the NRL who have commented in writing to us “which was the right one”; and with every Mt Smart game played since then we remain more convinced.

All that aside, I believe in the recent meeting Mark and Wayne suggested that if there was in fact progress on a ‘complete package’ that we use that momentum to look at 2016. Since the meeting on 29 May we have however heard nothing further on the RFA led process to ensure everything required can be achieved to make a move to Eden Park more probable; so yet again I suspect valuable time and effort is and will continue to be wasted. If RFA wish to manage a meaningful process to again look at the potential to move to Eden Park we will participate positively. However if there is neither the appetite from all parties to pursue this any further nor a properly managed and documented process, we are comfortable to reach a decision on our preferred venue future sooner and focus our dialogue with council on this direction. We certainly have no desire to waste anyone’s time, especially our own.

Secondly, regarding the Eagles’ concerts booked by the RFA at the start of our 2015 season, the issue is not the timing of the promoter announcing these concerts nor their commercial motivations. The issues are that RFA have negotiated and accepted these events with complete disregard to our contractual rights as they have been consistently applied, and also the potential specific material effect this will have on our 2015 season. Wayne has responded to RFA’s commercial offer dated 20 June 2014 advising that what was outlined does not resolve the matter. Wayne and Mark are however open to further dialogue with RFA to try and resolve this.

As I said below I am sincere in saying that we are open to all possibilities and I am available to discuss any of this directly with you at any time. In addition Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah and director Mark Flay remain the on the ground representatives for your team to deal with.

Regards

Eric

 

LETTER FROM RFA CHIEF EXECUTIVE ROBERT DOMM TO NRL CHIEF EXECUTIVE DAVE SMITH

11 September 2014

Dave Smith

Chief Executive

National Rugby League

Via Email: dsmith@nrl.com.au

Dear Dave

Auckland Stadiums

On behalf of the Board of Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), I would like to bring to your attention some matters relevant to the future activities of the NRL in Auckland.

RFA owns and operates Mt Smart Stadium, QBE (North Harbour) Stadium and Western Springs Stadium on behalf of Auckland Council in its role as shareholder. As you will be aware, the other major football stadium in Auckland, Eden Park, is owned and operated by an independent trust.

RFA’s three major stadiums are utilised for a variety of purposes including for all rectangular field football codes, major concerts and festivals, athletics, high performance training, speedway, sports administration and conferencing and events.

The RFA Board’s stadiums strategy is premised on increasing revenue, reducing operating and capital costs and significantly increasing venue utilisation. Importantly, we aim to enhance the customer experience at all of our events by offering the best quality stadium experience that Auckland can afford to offer. Further, continuing investment will be made into high performance training facilities to enhance on-field success of sport franchises, and local and national sport organisations. Ultimately, we believe this strategy will assist in the growth of the NRL in Auckland and New Zealand.

Stadiums availability – March 2015 NRL season launch

On 27 May 2014, RFA advised your Nathan McGuirk both verbally and in writing that Mt Smart Stadium will not be available for NRL events for a short period during March next year. This is due to the Eagles concert contracted for Saturday 14 March 2015 at the venue. Since forwarding that advice and due to overwhelming public demand, RFA has also secured a second Eagles concert for the following day on Sunday 15 March.

Almost 80,000 tickets have been sold for the two concerts, making this one of the biggest weekend entertainment events in Auckland for 2015. The economic benefits for the region

from the concerts are particularly significant, with more than 50% of ticket sales coming from outside of Auckland.

RFA wishes to stress that Mt Smart Stadium remains available for NRL events for each weekend in March 2015 with the exception of the weekend of the Eagles concerts. As an update to our earlier advice to your Mr McGuirk, please note that we have also worked with the promoter to implement and schedule production build arrangements so that the preceding Sunday, 8 March 2015, is also now available for an NRL event at Mt Smart if required.

For the weekend of the Eagles’ concerts in particular, RFA can make the modern QBE Stadium available for NRL events, with seating totalling 25,600. This of course is greater than the current seating capacity of Mt Smart Stadium.

Moreover, we will also be installing another 6,000 portable seats into Mt Smart for the 2014/15 summer concert season which will be available for NRL events on the advised dates Mt Smart is available for a New Zealand season launch next March.

From our perspective therefore, the launch of the NRL season in New Zealand for March 2015 may be satisfactorily accommodated in Auckland, notwithstanding the Mt Smart entertainment events scheduled during that period – particularly since RFA is adding 6000 extra portable seats to both Mt Smart and QBE Stadiums.

Future stadiums capital funding

After considerable public consultation and discussion over the past three years, the RFA Board has proceeded to implement its stadiums strategy for Auckland, which will be staged over the next four years. The reality is Auckland cannot sustain the high capital and operational costs of continuing to operate three major but underutilised stadiums, for the staging of national and international competition events of the main football codes here in New Zealand.

From the perspective of rugby league, RFA’s aim by the end of 2018 will be to reduce these three facilities down to two modern, upgraded major stadiums available in Auckland for the playing of NRL events – these being RFA’s QBE Stadium and the independently-operated Eden Park.

RFA proposes to invest $12 million towards building a roof over the Western stand at QBE Stadium. We propose to couple this initiative with the construction of infrastructure to accommodate the easy installation of an additional 11,000 quality portable seats (which we already own) and associated spectator amenities and concessions, at the venue when required for specific events. This will result in a total seated capacity of up to 30,600, of which approximately 80% will be covered by the existing stadium roof and the proposed new roof over the Western stand.

The proposed new roof over the Western stand will be future-proofed so that, when future funding becomes available, a retractable roof may be added to connect with the existing roof to create a fully enclosed stadium.

An impression of how the redeveloped QBE Stadium would look is attached.

The QBE Stadium capital investment outlined above is in addition to a further $15 million earmarked for QBE renewals and maintenance under Auckland Council’s proposed Long Term Plan.

The NRL, of course, is well aware of the high standard and quality of Eden Park as a rugby league playing venue following the $300 million upgrade for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and particularly with the staging of this year’s Auckland Nines.

The NZ Warriors, following the expiry of their current licence at Mt Smart in 2018, will accordingly have two options for a playing venue in Auckland – one larger venue with a greater hire cost (the 47,000 seat Eden Park) and one smaller venue with a lower hire cost (the 30,000 seat QBE Stadium).

The aging infrastructure at RFA’s Mt Smart Stadium Arena No. 1 and the associated significant capital costs to upgrade the venue, in addition to the fact that Auckland currently maintains one football stadium more than it can reasonably sustain, means that Auckland Council could not justify a business case to fund the necessary works and the ongoing operational costs to maintain Mt Smart at an acceptable NRL standard beyond 2018.

For its part, RFA is prepared to negotiate an incentive-based package for Mt Smart to remain as a high performance training and administrative venue for rugby league for the long term. To this end for example, we have recently invested $1.5 million in completing a new training field for the dedicated and exclusive use of the NZ Warriors when required.

RFA’s preparedness to support the growth of the NRL in Auckland will also extend to offering incentive-based arrangements for the NZ Warriors to use the redeveloped QBE Stadium as a playing venue. Should the NZ Warriors wish to utilise Eden Park as a playing venue, they will have to separately negotiate with the independent trust managing that facility.

RFA will be happy to directly address any queries that the NRL may have in respect to these matters.

Yours sincerely

Robert Domm

Chief Executive Officer

Cc: Jim Doyle, Chief Operating Officer, NRL

Wayne Scurrah, Chief Executive Officer, NZ Warriors

Mark Flay,Chief Financial Officer, NZ Warriors

Stephen Town, Chief Executive Officer, Auckland Council

 

LETTER FROM NRL CHIEF EXECUTIVE DAVE SMITH TO RFA CHIEF EXECUTIVE ROBERT DOMM 

25 September 2014

Mr Robert Domm

Chief Executive Officer

Regional Facilities Auckland

Via email: Robert.domm@aucklandstadiums.co.nz

Dear Robert,

I write in response to your letter dated 11 September 2014.

The NRL enjoys a strong working relationship with Auckland. This relationship has strengthened over the past 18 months, in particular through the delivery of the NRL Auckland Nines one of our key major events. However, the matters outlined in your letter relate to direct contractual and operational issues between the Council/RFA and the New Zealand Warriors. The resolution of these matters must be directed to the Warriors.

Naturally we have an interest in the two issues outlined in the letter and I wanted to take this opportunity to clearly indicate our support for the New Zealand Warriors’ position on these matters as per the following:

• In relation to the scheduling of the Eagles concert, the NRL understands that the Warriors have an exclusive period to confirm NRL home game scheduling at Mt Smart and that the concert bookings confirmed by RFA have breached this agreement. Scheduling rights of all clubs are of critical importance to both the clubs and the NRL and therefore we are very supportive of the Warriors in ensuring these rights are retained and honoured.

• In regards to the Warriors home venue we have been kept fully informed by the Warriors of the disappointing financial and fan experience outcomes from the trials held at Eden Park. The NRL has also assessed the Hiring Terms proposed for a permanent move to Eden Park and benchmarked these against other NRL clubs terms. The outcome of this independent analysis very clearly confirms the Warriors position that a move to Eden Park is significantly inferior to their current arrangements and will put the club’s financial viability at risk. Your letter also refers to QBE Stadium as a potential home venue. We understand that this option has never been formally proposed or explored, but that from past use its viability as a permanent home is also inferior to Mt Smart being retained as an option.

The NRL is committed to growing the game in Auckland and continuing to build on the positive economic, tourism, profile and social outcomes that both the Warriors and other NRL major events deliver to the region. We look forward to working with the Auckland Council family in the coming years as we continue on our NRL Auckland Nines journey and also plan for the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup in 2017. Most importantly, we remain committed to supporting the NZ Warriors with their future venue strategy and ensuring that it delivers benefits to both the NZ Warriors and the NRL.

Yours sincerely

Dave Smith Chief Executive Officer

Copy:

Stephen Town, CEO Auckland Council

Bill Wavish, Chairman New Zealand Warriors

Brett O’Riley, CEO ATEED