HOOKING IN: Knights chairman Brian McGuigan shares a laugh with Kurt Gidley and Tariq Sims. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTHE Knights remain one of the NRL’s financially strongest clubs, according to new directors, despite losing money since the league took control from Nathan Tinkler five months ago.
Under the chairmanship of renowned Hunter Valley vigneron Brian McGuigan, the new board of Katie Brassil, Eileen Doyle, Mark Fitzgibbon, Philip Gardner, John Quayle and Peter Shear met for the first time at Mayfield on Monday to plan the club’s future.
Brassil is Centennial Coal’s general manager of external affairs, Doyle chairs the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, Fitzgibbon is the chief executive of nib, Gardner is the Wests Group chief executive, Quayle is the NSW Venues chairman and former chief executive of the NSW Rugby League and Australian Rugby League, and Shear, a former Lloyds Banking Group executive, is an NRL adviser appointed by the league.
The NRL has agreed to underwrite the Knights for the next three years but McGuigan said the club would become self-sufficient ‘‘as soon as practicable’’.
‘‘We don’t know that yet, because we don’t know who we’ve got as sponsors and what funding that will give to us, but as soon as we have a plan you guys will know about it, and the community will know about it,’’ McGuigan said. ‘‘But we’ve got a responsibility of breaking square as quickly as we can, and that’s what we intend to do.’’
When the NRL, Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group and the Knights Members Club signed off on a settlement in June, the new Knights entity had $5.1million in start-up funds.
– JOHN QUAYLE
That nest egg has since been reduced, though Shear would not divulge to what extent.
‘‘The club’s financial position is strong but the club has been making losses,’’ Shear said.
‘‘But for us it’s about the future and we’re on a strong platform and we’re very focused as a board to continue to build financial stability.
‘‘The club’s made some losses in the last couple of months, but it’s still one of the most financially strong clubs in the league at the moment.’’
Quayle, who along with Shear, Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and other NRL officials helped oversee the post-Tinkler transition, said the new regime had already reduced operating costs by $3million.
‘‘Like any business, you can only spend what you make, and the first stage for us is getting that right and getting that structure in place to make sure the long-term viability of the Knights is secure,’’ Quayle said.
‘‘You can’t do that over one year. You have to do that over a period of time. If we get that right, first up, the rest flows.
‘‘No longer can a team just survive from year to year. It’s fine for people to say that in sport you can win a premiership in one year, but it’s no use doing that and going broke.’’
Gardner said the Knights had been ‘‘chasing their tails’’ financially since inception.
‘‘This time around, they’re not going to be doing that, and you’ve got an independent board in place. For the first time, the shareholder is not running the club,’’ Gardner said.
‘‘You’ve got an independent board that are going to be set up to run the club properly, they’re going to be answerable to the shareholder, and if they don’t perform, the shareholder will fire them. That’s never been the case before.’’
Gardner said the Knights would run a ‘‘leaner, more efficient administration’’ than the one that existed under HSG management, and the new board had moved on from the win now, pay later attitude that influenced the decisions of some directors in the past.
‘‘They put the blazer on and they’re prepared to sell the next 10 years of the business down the river to win this year. That’s not the structure going forward of this board, and it won’t be the structure going forward under any future ownership,’’ he said.
‘‘You’ll have a very different commercial outcome, I think, and a very different governance structure, and it’s going to be very transparent.
‘‘Because you’ve got an independent board, they’ll be transparent not just back to their shareholders but to the community and to the media, because the media is very important in ensuring that everyone is kept honest and honourable in what they’re doing.
‘‘So I think you’ll see a very different organisation both from a governance structure, and transparency to the community, than we’ve seen at the Knights over the last 20 years.’’