By Peter Doust - St George Illawarra Dragons Chief Executive
As we head into the 2018 season, I thought it timely to provide members and partners with an update on some key strategic matters and business priorities.
High-level talks are ongoing with WIN Television and other interested parties in relation to the sale of the Steelers' 50 per cent shareholding in the St George Illawarra Dragons which the board and management are looking to finalise during 2018.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the discussions and negotiations have taken some time, it is a reflection of the enormity and complexity of the decision that will shape the future of the business and brand.
As such, the decision and detail needs to be absolutely right to ensure that the history, heritage and values of the club are maintained and further details will be provided when and where appropriate, within the 'commercially in confidence' parameters.
Following the retirement of Bob Millward from the Dragons board in October 2017, the Steelers nomination, and new addition to the Dragons board is John Brannon.
John was previously the General Manager/CEO of Port Kembla Coal Terminal and is a company director and chairman who works across government, commercial and not for profit boards in industries such as finance, mining, tourism, education and sports administration.
It has already been communicated that I have decided that this season will be my last at the Dragons. I will retire at the end of the year.
The St George Illawarra Board of Directors, led by Chairman Brian Johnston, will actively recruit for a new CEO in the coming months.
I have, and will continue to thoroughly enjoy my time in the role, and am very proud to represent the Dragons as CEO. This is a lifestyle decision that will provide me with the time and opportunity to pursue other interests.
Club sustainability continues to be a key priority for the NRL, particularly as in 2017 when only one club made a profit.
This year marks the first year of the new five-year broadcast funding cycle and new club license agreements that will cover the cost of the football salary cap for the first time ever.
Our commercial loan from the NRL was set-up to provide "working capital" from 2013-2018 and the repayment is factored into our business planning strategies as required.
Noting however, that the Dragons are not the only club who have individual finance arrangements with the NRL or other stakeholders.
Over 19,100 Red V Members joined our program in 2017 – up from 17,884 in 2016. As at the beginning of February 2018, revenue from Red V Membership is up 17 per cent on the same period last year and is on track for another year of growth.
Thank you to all our loyal Red V Members for joining our team for 2018.
Sponsorship is on track to deliver a record revenue return in 2018 and will achieve double digit growth. We are delighted to extend our relationship with St.George Bank into almost 40 years and we are in the process of finalising all sponsor apparel assets that will see our kit as one of the most valuable in the NRL. Special mention and welcome to new partners XBlades and Westfund Health Insurance.
Women's licence bid
Late last year the NRL announced plans to establish an NRL elite women’s competition in 2018. The inaugural competition is planned to run over a six-week period through August and September in conjunction with the final two rounds of the Telstra Premiership and four weeks of the finals series.
The NRL has indicated that there will be only six licences available initially for a five-year period and as a club, we are presently in the process of developing our submission to be included in this competition.
We have a strong history and association with the development of women's rugby league across our region, particularly in the Illawarra, where we established pathways and competitions in 2001. In fact, the first women’s rugby league game in our region was played in 1991, the Wollongong Wildcats v Dapto Daredevils.
Submissions are due mid this month with the NRL to confirm franchises to clubs in March 2018. The NRL have already stated that geography, location, resources, pathways and programs will be key assessment criteria.
Dragons Ambassadors and Jillaroos stars Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner are actively involved and supporting us in the development of our submission.
Centre of Excellence
We are actively continuing to pursue opportunities to develop a world class training, administration and community facility for the Dragons as a key strategic objective for the organisation. We have been working closely with specific partners on a planning process over the last 12 months and our plans are well advanced.
In regard to the New South Wales State Government's recent investment into the development of certain Centres of Excellence facilities across multiple clubs, our discussions with government representatives it became apparent that this investment fund would not have provided the Dragons with sufficient capital to develop the quality facility we require and have planned, which is why we have been pursuing alternate options. We hope to be in a position to make these plans public in 2018.
It should also be noted that the Dragons were successful in receiving $60 million in government funding over recent years for our WIN Stadium and Jubilee Oval facilities.
Graeme Langlands Public Tribute
As announced on January 30, we plan to hold a public tribute to Immortal Graeme Langlands ahead of our Round 1 match against the Brisbane Broncos at Jubilee Oval on Thursday, March 8.
The exact details are still being finalised in conjunction with Graeme's family and the NRL, but Red V Members and fans can expect an event similar to what was held for Reg Gasnier ahead of the NRL match against the North Queensland Cowboys at Kogarah on Sunday, July 5, 2014.
Details will be provided once finalised closer to the event, but we would encourage all Dragons fans to attend this special event.
For those without Red V Membership seats at Kogarah, the NRL is due to release tickets for Round 1 to club members on Monday, February 12 and the general public on Tuesday, February 13.
Overall, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year both on and off the field.
Go the Dragons!