Channel 10 woes bring Dragons uncertainty

DIRE STRAITS: Channel 10's financial woes could impact WIN Corporation's long mooted purchase of St George Illawarra. Picture: Getty Images
DIRE STRAITS: Channel 10's financial woes could impact WIN Corporation's long mooted purchase of St George Illawarra. Picture: Getty Images

AFTER some dark days last season, things seem pretty rosy at St George Illawarra at present.

They currently sit in the top four and seem set to finish there at the end of the regular season. Paul McGregor has earned a thoroyghly deserved two-year contact extension.

The club’s roster is as stable as it has been since the Wayne Bennett era and even the ‘Oust Doust’ banner seems to be in the cupboard for now. 

All that’s left for the club to be truly in control of it’s own destiny is the wiping of it’s $6 million debt to the NRL.

Vastly improved performances on the field have largely muted conversation around the debt, but CEO Peter Doust went on the front foot at last week’s press conference announcing McGregor’s two-year contract extension.

“I don’t get the continued discussion about our financial position,” Doust said.

“Many club’s get their money through third parties. If you’re at South Sydney you’re getting it from a certain third party. If you’re in Brisbane you’re getting it another way through a public company or other investors.

“We get it in our ways that suit our business model.”

For one, it was good to hear the famously media shy Doust speak so frankly but comparing an NRL bail-out to investment from independent third parties at other clubs is a stretch. 

The NRL is presently seeking it’s own loans to cover a cash shortfall and has already been forced to take ownership of two clubs while propping up both the Tigers and Dragons financially.

It leaves the long mooted purchase of the club by Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corporation  the final piece of the puzzle. 

Fan polls in recent seasons have shown overwhelming support for the move but it’s not likely to happen any time soon after Channel 10 went into voluntary administration on Wednesday. 

It came after Gordon, and fellow majority shareholders Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer decided not to guarantee a $250 million debt renewal when the current agreement expires in December. 

It also comes as parliament considers legislation that would lift current media ownership laws that prevent the likes of Gordon holding a controlling stake in Ten. 

With the Wollongong Wolves and the Southern Expansion group in bids to earn new licenses when the A-League – to which Ten holds free-to-air television rights – next considers expansion, a move on the Dragons seem unlikely in the short-term.

Club chairmen Brian Johnston suggested as much last week at the same press conference.

“We have been talking to a particular suitor over the previous number of years,” Johnston said.

“What’s important is that we get the right partner at the right time. We are talking to WIN Corporation and have been for a number of years.

“WIN Corporation are obviously in the regional TV business which is under a lot of pressure at the present time and we’re not in a position to rush them into any decisions.”

The Dragons are far from a club on it’s knees, but is look like fans will have to wait a little longer for long-term piece of mind.