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Dogs' 15-year leash means Belmore is out

By Roy Masters

February 13, 2007 - Sydney Morning Herald

AN ADMISSION by Bulldogs president George Peponis that his club would play at Telstra Stadium for the next 15 years has angered a group determined to return home games to Belmore Sportsground.

Luke Brailey, the young president of "Back To Belmore Inc", discovered the Bulldogs' long-term commitment to the Homebush Bay stadium in a question to Peponis at Sunday's annual general meeting. Peponis refused to answer a hypothetical question on the possibility of future state and federal funds allowing a renovation of Belmore, before conceding the club was committed to Homebush Bay for 15 years.

Telstra Stadium already has South Sydney and Wests Tigers as tenants and, with each club expected to play games in two grades from 2008, NRL officials are concerned about the ground surface accommodating possibly six games a week.

Back to Belmore Inc argues the Bulldogs should be pursuing options taken by St George Illawarra, Penrith and Cronulla, who have secured government grants allowing them to upgrade their suburban bases.

Brailey describes as spurious the Bulldogs' argument that Belmore is unacceptable to the NRL because it cannot accommodate an upgrade to 35,000. "Only three of the Bulldogs matches last year attracted 18,000," he said. "To say Belmore must house 35,000 is ridiculous. We are only interested in transferring to Belmore low-drawing matches, such as those against the Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Panthers. Two years ago, when it was announced the Bulldogs would be based at Homebush, the time frame was 15 years. Now it's still 15 years. They seem to be perpetuating the period, denying us of any freedom to go back to Belmore."

A Bulldogs spokesman confirmed the 15-year agreement dated from 2007 but said the Belmore ground was owned by Canterbury Council, which has baulked at refurbishments to NRL standards. Brailey said: "The constant finger-pointing and blame-placing at Canterbury Council does Bulldogs supporters and the quality of decision-making a great disservice and the club appears to have become an anti-Belmore echo chamber."

Club sources insist that when Brailey asked his question at the AGM, a general moan followed. However, members said this was because voting had unexpectedly delayed general business by 45 minutes and free beer and snacks awaited the record attendance.

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