Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne says the current proposal to rebuild Balmain Leagues Club would have no impact on keeping the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
Balmain great Paul Sironen on Monday handed nearly 5,000 submissions to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure in support of bringing the leagues club back to its Rozelle base.
Sironen said the development was crucial to saving rugby league in the inner west, and would shore up the future of Leichhardt Oval – which could stop hosting games after next year, Wests Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys told a Sunday newspaper.
But Byrne said it was misinformation to suggest approving the 24-storey proposal at the Rozelle site would increase the likelihood of the Tigers retaining a base at their spiritual home, where they currently play three games a year.
“There’s not a cent for the club in the redevelopment,” Byrne told AAP.
“There’s no cash payment to the club if this redevelopment is approved.
“The only benefit for the club is a 15-year lease at commercial rates.
“We had a representative of the club suggest in the paper on Sunday that this would be the last year the Tigers would play at Leichhardt Oval.
“Some people might interpret it as hypocrisy to suggest that we have to have skyscrapers in Rozelle to bring the Tigers home, whilst in the same breath agreeing to the government and the NRL’s proposal to end rugby league at Leichhardt Oval.”
Sironen admitted the future of the Tigers was in doubt if the latest proposal was blocked.
“It’s dire alright. It could spell the end of (the fight to save the leagues club),” he said.
“That’s how bad it is. We need support from the leagues club to help fund Tigers football.
“This has dragged on for a long time now. For the sake of Tigers football in the Balmain area we need some positive news.”
While Sironen was pleased to have Byrne’s support for keeping Leichhardt Oval operational, he urged the mayor to listen to the fans who want a rebuilt leagues club.
“It sounds like the mayor is fully supportive of keeping the football ground there and NRL games there, but I wish it was the same with the leagues club side at Rozelle,” Sironen said.
“As the mayor said, listen to the fans. The fans want us to go back to Rozelle as well.”
To which Byrne responded: “(The form letter) asks people to show their support for the Tigers return to Rozelle – you’ll find no one who supports that more strongly than me.
“But to interpret people signing onto that statement as them supporting 24-storey skyscrapers in low-rise Rozelle is stretching the truth quite a bit.”
Byrne said it was unlikely the latest proposal would be approved, saying independent assessors had given it the thumbs down.
“The independent advice that we’ve got from planning experts and the people who are most respected in their field is that the revised proposal will still have a disastrous impact on local traffic, local businesses and will draw Victoria Road to a standstill,” he said.
“As desperate as I am to see the Tigers return to Rozelle through a sensible redevelopment, I’m not in a position to ignore the independent planning advice of experts.
“The proposal as it stands doesn’t comply with a single one of the state government’s own planning controls.”