Private ownership in Australian sport

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Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court celebrate a Souths victory. AAP Image/Action Photographics/Grant Trouville

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With Russell Crowe due to leave the Rabbitohs at the end of the 2013 season, fans are left wondering whether private ownership of sporting clubs really is a positive thing.

After all, Nathan Tinkler and his Hunter Sports Group have given Knights and Jets fans cause for concern, with his very public cash flow troubles.

Crowe and Holmes a Court took over what was a struggling football club in 2006 and in six years have turned the club into a powerhouse. However, what happens to the red and green after next season?

While George Piggins is over-reacting when he rants the club will be taken to Perth or the Central Coast, the reality is there are very few people within Australia who have both the means and the passion for rugby league to own a club.

Savvy business operators have the expectation that when they purchase a company, they will turn a profit. The reality is, ownership of a sporting club can be likened to piling up money and burning it. Just ask Tinkler.

The public are often sceptical of how private owners will affect the club, think the Glazers and Manchester United, and often they are proven correct.

Clive Palmer single-handedly ran Gold Coast United into the ground when he declared football to be a “hopeless game. Rugby league’s a much better game.”

Crowe and Holmes a Court paid $3 million for their 75% share and it’s reasonable to suggest they wouldn’t sell for any less than that. Whether the members can afford it remains to be seen and it may be up to Souths Juniors, with their very wealthy leagues club, to pull the Rabbitohs out of this mess.

While Crowe’s positive influence cannot be debated, the question must be asked: Was the Rabbitohs’ short term success worth the future doubts?

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