Back to Belmore President Luke Cevolani, Vice President Steven Cataldi and Patron Luke Brailey met Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Chair Lynne Anderson and Chief Executive Andrew Hill at Bulldogs HQ last week to discuss key challenges facing Belmore Sports Ground.
Ms Anderson and Mr Hill warmly welcomed Messrs Cevolani, Cataldi and Brailey to Belmore for formal talks which underscored the shared belief that the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Back to Belmore are natural partners in responding to the challenges facing Belmore Sports Ground. Both parties agreed to continue to strengthen ties and deepen cooperation to enhance the future of the facility following a tumultuous period in relations under the previous Bulldogs administration.
The head of Back to Belmore's governing body reiterated the organisation's commitment to their enduring partnership with Belmore Sports Ground's primary occupant and leaseholder.
“There is no closer friendship than that between the Bulldogs and Back to Belmore. These ties endure not only as a result of our history and community ties in the Canterbury-Bankstown district but draw strongly on our shared core values, including our joint commitment to the preservation and restoration of Belmore Sports Ground and safeguarding the historic venue for future generations of athletes.” Mr Cevolani said.
Mr Cataldi said the positive interaction with the current administration over the past year bodes well for a brighter future between the Bulldogs and Back to Belmore.
“Maintaining and strengthening this relationship is the vital responsibility of all stakeholders. Lynne has an acute understanding of the important nexus between the Bulldogs and Back to Belmore and today's visit to Belmore has again succeeded in deepening and broadening our alliance,” he said.
“Back to Belmore and the Bulldogs have agreed that we will strengthen our collaboration on a range of important issues. We intend to work collaboratively and cohesively to support the next phase of the venue's revitalisation and we look forward to working ever more closely together in these challenging times.”
Mr Brailey, who contested a seat on the Bulldogs board of directors at the football club election in February 2018 heavily favouring the triumphant Reform ticket led by Ms Anderson, said the two organisations' shared values were the foundation for their dialogue.
“Over the past year, the winds of change have swept through Belmore in a positive way. We are so glad to have wiped the slate clean, pressed the reset button and made a fresh start. I think Lynne and Andrew have been doing a superb job over the past year and they've treated us with the utmost respect. The current board is highly compatible with our mission and we're looking forward to working with them for some years to come.” Mr Brailey said.
“We applaud Lynne for taking appropriate steps in undoing the damage caused by her predecessor in the context of our relations with the Bulldogs. Our dialogue over the last 12 months highlights the genuine affection and mutual respect between the Bulldogs and Back to Belmore and we look forward to working with the Bulldogs to lay the foundation for the next stage of our relationship. If it had not been for the pivotal role that Back to Belmore played and the point at which we arrived 14 years ago, the trajectory of events that led to the sporting facility's incredible transformation would have been very different in terms of the outcome.”
The organisation's decision-making body has again ruled out demanding the Bulldogs play NRL matches at Belmore Sports Ground, stressing that it was something only the football club could decide.
“As we've already reiterated numerous times over the years, Back to Belmore fully supports the right of the Bulldogs to stage NRL matches at Belmore Sports Ground if they freely so determine,” said Mr Cevolani.
“It is rather naive and unrealistic to think that the Back to Belmore committee can just walk up to the Bulldogs and demand that they play premiership games at the venue and that the club just complies with that demand. The committee does its best every year to meet the Bulldogs and discuss challenges but there are many other factors such as occupational health and safety, parking, risk and assurance, financial costs and improved stadium requirements that need to be considered. Belmore Sports Ground still needs more work done to get the venue to the standard it requires to host multiple NRL games every year. We are more than happy to work with the Bulldogs and key stakeholders to make it happen if they choose to do so.”
Mr Brailey, head of Back to Belmore's governing body from 2005 until 2014, emphasised that any decision to stage major events at Belmore is a decision between the occupant and owner of the venue.
“This issue is simply not within our terms of reference. Unfortunately, the vocal minority wanting Back to Belmore to somehow force the Bulldogs to play NRL games at Belmore is not well-versed in rationality. As this miniscule minority is typically made up of people who don't quite understand the landscape and possess little or no knowledge of operational, administrative and logistical niceties, it can be difficult for them to fully comprehend and appreciate the complexities of planning, coordinating, facilitating and hosting sporting fixtures at the historic facility in its current state,” he said.
“Naturally, we would be supportive of any major sporting event to be staged at the venue. However, the Bulldogs are already fully aware of local community sentiment and the issue does not need to be forced. The Bulldogs will always do what is in their best interests and we must respect their decision-making process. Fundamentally, our relationship is built on a desire to work towards a common goal. I am confident that we will continue to work with this administration on ways to address the critical issues facing Belmore Sports Ground. Back to Belmore looks forward to working with the club to ensure the NRL premiership match at the historic facility against the Melbourne Storm on Sunday, 26 May is a tremendous success for the venue and the community at large. This game at Belmore represents an exciting opportunity to celebrate the rich history of the venue.”