Manly Sea Eagles clash with Warringah Council over Brookvale Oval rent

Sea Eagles debt to council

Warringah Council and the Manly Sea Eagles are going head to head in a dispute over the rent of the team’s home ground at Brookvale Oval.

The parties have been clashing since the council offered the NRL club the same rent as for the past two years – $375,000 per season, but the club has demanded a $155,000 annual reduction.

The NRL club launched a campaign known as “Fight for Fortress Brookie” over the weekend, calling on members, sponsors and community groups to pledge their support for the proposal.

The club released video interviews on their Facebook page with Sea Eagles players asking their fans to help stop the council from “kicking [them] out by charging unrealistic hiring fees.”

Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon said the “battle” over Brookvale Oval was “one that the club must win.”

“I am very surprised that Warringah Council is not supporting the Sea Eagles,” Lyon said.

“Most other local councils would jump at the opportunity to have an NRL team in their backyard, especially one as successful and well known as the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.”

But the club’s campaign is being aggressively resisted by Warringah Mayor Michael Regan, who said the council was legally unable to reduce the lease due to regulations imposed by the government during the state’s council amalgamation process.

“Here’s the sad truth: even if we wanted to, we can’t legally put a $155,000 hole in our budget while our boundaries are under review,” Mr Regan said.

“The government sent out strict instructions saying that whilst you’re in this period you are unable to enter into anything that may jeopardise future councils in any sort of financial terms.”

The government regulations instruct councils not to make “significant and/or ongoing financial commitments that will be binding on a new council.”

According to Mr Regan, any budget hole would place a larger burden on ratepayers, including new ratepayers from Mosman, following a proposed amalgamation.

Mr Regan said that the Sea Eagles’ campaign against the council was “phony and misleading,” and called for the club’s management to “clean with their real motives and be honest” to their fans.

“They threatened a media war if we didn’t drop our price and now they’re pretending the rent is too high,” Mr Regan said.

“We all love the Sea Eagles but they are run by a private, profit making company. A company [that is] constantly sledging Council in the media and unnecessarily angering fans… to try and get cheaper rent on a public park.”

Mr Regan suggested the team’s management might have promoted the campaign to retain fans while justifying a move to more profitable venues.

“My suspicion – and the members who have spoken openly to me – is it’s all about trying to take games away from Brookvale Oval to earn more money for the owners and the management,” he said.

“They want a scapegoat.”

Sea Eagles CEO Joe Kelly said the club proposed “a hire fee figure three-times the benchmark being paid by other NRL clubs” but said that was “quickly dismissed” by council.

Mr Kelly denied that the club was trying to move games to other venues, and said the club is lobbying the government for additional funding to improve the oval’s infrastructure and community facilities.

“Even during this current dispute we haven’t discussed moving any of our fixtures that are scheduled at Brookvale for 2016,” Mr Kelly said.

The football club is 90 per cent owned by Penn Sport, controlled by the Penn family, and 10 per cent owned by the Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club.

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