17/09/2009 - 00:00

Major codes upbeat despite revenue squeeze

17/09/2009 - 00:00

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THE past 12 months has been tough for most businesses but especially for the state's major sporting clubs, which have been forced to deal with inadequate venues, declining ticket sales and poor on-field performances, as well as the economic slowdown.

Major codes upbeat despite revenue squeeze

THE past 12 months has been tough for most businesses but especially for the state's major sporting clubs, which have been forced to deal with inadequate venues, declining ticket sales and poor on-field performances, as well as the economic slowdown.

Speaking to WA Business News, the major clubs have reported a difficult year with a sharp decline in corporate sponsorships and reduced interest in memberships, but they remain positive about their prospects.

Inadequate infrastructure continues to frustrate clubs, particularly the Perth Wildcats and Rugby WA.

However, to weather the storm, clubs are introducing new revenue streams into their business and boosting marketing budgets to promote their brand, both domestically and internationally.

Rugby WA remains in a state of limbo until the capacity of ME Bank Stadium is expanded, with many supporters failing to renew their membership until Emirates Western Force games are moved from Subiaco Oval.

Nonetheless, with 14,000 members, the Force has had the largest membership of all Super 14 clubs in Australia since its inception.

The average attendance for Western Force home games is almost 23,500, about 15 per cent higher than the national average of 20,300.

Rugby WA chief executive Vern Reid said despite the economic challenges of the past year, he remained positive about boosting membership next season at the revamped ME Bank Stadium.

"We are delighted the government has announced a new rectangular stadium for rugby and soccer. We appreciate there is still a lot of work to be done in order to get that timetable right, but while we're very, very pleased with the decision, we need to know as soon as possible when that work can start," he said.

Despite experiencing a dip in operating revenue from last year to about $20 million, Mr Reid believes Rugby WA is in a "reasonably good space".

Perth Wildcats chief executive Nick Marvin remains bullish about the year ahead, despite completion of its new venue, Perth Arena, being delayed and the club losing its major sponsor, property group Saville.

Mr Marvin said the club was implementing new revenue streams, such as offering corporate training sessions for businesses to train with the Wildcats, and promoting its brand in schools to combat the economic downturn.

"We are feeling some symptoms of the financial crisis," he said.

"Some families are telling us they are doing it tough this year, they may not renew membership, but renewals are pretty good anyway so we're not too worried about that.

"We picked the downturn really early so we tried to mitigate all our risk.

"Had Saville not gone under, they were a $400,000 sponsor this year, we wouldn't need to do much more. I mean, notwithstanding that sponsorship, we've ticked all the other boxes."

The Wildcats have aggressively pursued major sponsorships during the downturn, but with just weeks before the revamped National Basketball League opens, the team is yet to sign a major sponsor.

"People have criticised me for going to the market and asking for corporate sponsors to get involved," Mr Marvin said.

"I keep saying that the burden of the Wildcats cannot be on the shoulders of one man [owner Jack Bendat].

"From a corporate social responsibility point of view, it is everyone's burden for all Western Australian brands to get behind not just the Wildcats but the Glory, the Eagles the Dockers, or netball, because we do more than just put on a game.

Fremantle Football Club has been developing its brand to mitigate the tough economic climate, continuing its venture in South Africa with partners Continental Capital and Nkwe Platinum.

Dockers chief executive Steve Rosich said the AFL's strong brand had insulated the club's commercial operations from the economic impact of the past 12 months.

"We are well positioned late in the 2009 financial year to go close to our profit targets set in September 2008, and indeed exceed our forecast that was set in February 2009," he said.

"Albeit that we finished with six wins this year, we're seeing a strong degree of confidence to improve our off-field performance, as evidenced by the recent signing of Woodside Energy as a major sponsor for 2010 for a period of three years.

Sponsorship has also been a significant element to the WA Cricket Association's ability to ride out the global financial crisis.

The WACA recently signed a five-year deal with Lion Nathan, and major sponsor Retravision extended its long-standing partnership for a further three years.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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