Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey has defended the council’s involvement in securing two Canberra Raiders matches after the club was hit with a financial penalty for a contractual breach.
The ACT Government has penalised the club $150,000 for hosting a home game in Wagga next year, which it deemed breaches a deal to play all matches at Canberra Stadium.
Cr Conkey said “we should stress that it’s not a fine”.
“It’s a contractual arrangement that the raiders have with the ACT Government,” Cr Conkey said.
“We’ve been fully aware of that since day one when we started negotiating with the Raiders.”
He said that while it was a significant amount of money and “an economic loss to Canberra”, it was also a significant economic gain to Wagga.
“There’s the suggestion that the return could be up to $2 million or more,” Cr Conkey said.
“We have 2500 tickets already sold for a game that’s coming up in May next year, so that shows you the extent and interest in this game.”
The deal for Wagga to host two Raiders matches in 2019 and 2020 was announced in August this year.
The 2019 game is set to be on the same weekend as the Gold Cup in May.
Moving ahead, Cr Conkey believes the Raiders’ contract with the ACT Government finishes at the end of the 2019 season.
“So hopefully the game in 2020 would be far cheaper to host than next year’s,” he said.
“We’d love to gain more games.
“We are a feeder base for the Raiders – there’s a number of people from this region who play for them, so it makes sense for us to host games.”
For Raiders fan Tony Scutti, however, he said that the penalty was “a disgrace”.
“It’s a good thing for them to come to town,” he said.
“It bring lots of money and people in addition to the Gold Cup – what more could we ask for?”
Mr Scutti also said the initiative would boost rugby league in the Riverina as well as service fans and players who are members of the Raiders.
It bring lots of money and people in addition to the Gold Cup – what more could we ask for?Tony Scutti, Canberra Raiders fan
“There are a lot of fans here and it’s about the kids, really,” he said.
“The Raiders get a lot of their players from the Riverina as well.
“It’s sad that they’re getting penalised – the NRL should step in and help.”
The club’s CEO, Don Furner, and communications department were unavailable for comments.
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