Super15 franchises looking offshore

Offshore investors could prove a decisive factor in the location of the new Super 15 franchise in Australia, with bids from Gold Coast and western Sydney both fishing for foreign backers.


The development emerged as organisers of a western Sydney bid revealed their plan to pitch for a second team in New South Wales, based at Parramatta Stadium.


The Unofficial favourite for the 15th Super Rugby team in the Super 15 in Melbourne but the final decision is only expected later this year.


Western Sydney businessman Gary Hudson, a former Parramatta rugby president, is heading the bid group and believes that the area is ripe for a rugby franchise even though Sydney effectively already has a Super Rugby team in the Waratahs.


“There is massive room for a new player in the market,” he said.


The western Sydney bid team have made approaches to possible private equity backers to bankroll the team, and Hudson said their search will involve potential offshore partners.


This is an approach that the Gold Coast bid team is already pursuing, and speculation abounds a big Japanese investor is willing to tip money into a second Queensland franchise.


“There would be great community support (for a western Sydney team), and certainly sufficient commercial support in terms of sponsorship,” Hudson said.


“With the GFC, private equity is alittle bit more difficult. But it doesn’t necessarily have to come from onshore, does it?


“It can come from offshore,” he told the Daily Telegraph.


“Those organisations and individuals who have been successful in other parts of the world may well want to be involved in a Super 15 franchise in western Sydney, or other parts of Australia.”


The ARU said there were no restrictions on foreign ownership.


Though still in early days of putting together a proposal, Hudson’s group has already met Parramatta Stadium Trust boss Luke Coleman and is convinced a western Sydney team is a must to grow rugby in Australia.


“I think it would work remarkably well,” Hudson said.


“You have New South Wales Waratahs already so you are actually looking for a new tribal following, and that’s available in western Sydney.


“It’s an area of about 1.8 million people, has a massive geographic area and one of the fastest growing in Australia as well.


“There are actually only three league clubs out here – Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Penrith.”


The Waratahs are aware of the west’s potential and drew their biggest crowd this year at Homebush against the Crusaders.


The north-west is the city’s fastest growing rugby region and Hudson said the rugby-loving Pacific Island population out west was largely untapped.


“The Waratahs are a great side,” Hudson said.


“The SFS tends to attract those people who can get there easily, which is the eastern suburbs and peninsula people. And they are very strong rugby areas.


“But we need to develop other rugby strong points in Sydney, not just for Sydney but developing players to go right through to Wallaby level.


“If you want to grow the game, doing it in western Sydney gives the best potential outcome.

 

“It’s a big population and a young population.”

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