By Josh Massoud
April 10, 2009 - The Daily Telegraph
FORMAL talks have begun for the Bulldogs to make a glorious homecoming to their spiritual kennel - Belmore Sportsground.
The feel-good vibe generated from yesterday's $2 million major sponsor announcement with Strathfield Group is sure to spread among fans with revelations that top club officials met Canterbury Council this week to discuss a long-awaited return to Belmore.
Bulldogs chairman George Peponis and CEO Todd Greenberg visited the council's mayor on Wednesday night to kick-start a long process that insiders hope will see the Bulldogs play a handful of matches at the ground in future seasons.
The club's first gaoal is to once again make Belmore its administrative and training base from as soon as late this year.
Officials and players have been deeply frustrated by the training schedule stuff-ups at Sydney Olympic Park, the Bulldogs' home since quitting Belmore in March last year.
The club's tenancy at Homebush Bay expires in October. Sentiment and logistics have combined to fuel a desire to get back to Belmore as soon as possible after that.
At least $2 million is needed to revive the dilapidated stadium to meet professional training and administrative needs.
Wednesday night's negotiations with Canterbury Mayor Robert Furolo centred on council funding, in addition to monies provided by upper levels of government.
Greenberg said he had also spoken to state and federal politicians about grants to resurrect Belmore to a venue capable of staging "one or two NRL matches a year".
"But I'd like to stress that's a long way in the future," he added. "We've got a deal with ANZ Stadium until 2015 and we are very happy there.
"At the moment we are focused on returning our full-time training and offices to Belmore. That could happen in time for the 2010 pre-season. We'd love to get to the stage where there's enough funding to redevelop Belmore to play a trial match and the, possibly, a couple of NRL games down the track."
Greenberg also hit out at Sydney Olympic Park for the trials his players have experienced over the past year.
"They are supposed to be the home of the Olympics and we are supposed to be a first-class sporting team," he fumed. "And yet they can't even provide us with exclusive training facilities."
said yesterday's three-year sponsorship deal with Strathfield Group - the former car radio specialist that recently diversified into office furniture - came after a month of negotiations.
"Things really sped up over the past couply of days," Greenberg said. "Their thinking was that it was better to get in sooner rather than later."