Manly are no certainty to play out of their spiritual home Brookvale Oval during the 2016 NRL season after their stand-off with Warringah Council reached a flashpoint.
The Sea Eagles on Tuesday launched a stinging attack on the council – the ground’s landlord – after they failed to reach an agreement to rent the venue less than two months out from their season-opener.
The club accused the council of “effectively holding a gun to the Sea Eagles’ head”, using them as a “cash cow” and trying to force them out of Brookvale Oval.
The two parties have been in negotiations since May last year and after Manly knocked back a one-year contract – under the same terms as 2015 which it termed exorbitant – it proposed a counter offer.
In a scathing statement, Sea Eagles chief executive Joe Kelly said the club had put forth an offer to hire the ground at a reduced rate of $220,000 per year – down from $375,000 paid previously – but would also shoulder the cost of ground maintenance.
Kelly said the offer was “three times” the benchmark paid by other clubs, but the council knocked it back saying the ground costs $600,000 a year to maintain to NRL standard.
The council reiterated their desire to see the Sea Eagles remain on the northern beaches while the club said they had not yet investigated the option of playing at another venue.
The council recently drafted a casual hire agreement should the Sea Eagles not agree to a one-year tenancy extension, but the club has rejected that offer, claiming it would see their fee balloon to up to $60,000 per game.
Kelly called that offer “discriminatory to rugby league” because it did not apply to any other sporting team and said he had referred it to Manly’s lawyers.
“It’s time Warringah Council placed the sporting spectator and northern beaches participants safety and welfare ahead of their cost recovery approach to Brookvale Oval,” Kelly said.
“It’s very apparent that Warringah Council give no consideration to the club’s community service and goodwill on the northern beaches, not to mention the positive effect of having an NRL team in their backyard.
“We believe that council are using the Sea Eagles as a cash cow for a venue that is open to the public for no less than 355 days per year.”
The Sea Eagles are scheduled to kick off their season against Canterbury on March 4.
Manly recently agreed to an agreement over unpaid rent but was angered when the council put forward a new agreement which could not guarantee the ground would be up to NRL standard.
Last year the state of the playing surface was heavily criticised after the ground appeared patchy and unsteady under foot during their clash with Canterbury in March and the pitch had to be re-turfed.