NRL an attractive proposition to US investors, says former Parramatta Eels CEO Bernie Gurr


Which is why he believes there are people with the means and appetite to make significant investments in rugby league.

“The game is very popular and people might see an opportunity here to get a potential return,” Gurr said.

“The other scenario is that mega-wealthy people are looking to be involved in sports. You could get a billionaire in America that says ‘I’ve got a spare $300 million, I’d love to do something in Australian sports.’ They could actually do that.

Former Eels CEO Bernie Gurr believes rugby league is an attractive proposition to US investors.Credit:AAP

“It’s all on the table and it depends on what price you pay. These people who run hedge funds and private equity funds, it’s all about getting value for their money when they make an investment, whether it be in the sports or non-sports sector.

“Sports always has that extra component because it’s appealing, it’s attractive, people want to be involved in sports for whatever reason.

“That’s why you get a lot of private owners in sports around the world prepared to eat a bit of cash because they want to be involved. Nothing is more indicative of that than rugby league, where we have some private owners. There’s no way that, over the years, they have made money on their investments. They do it for love.”

Kline’s clients were already looking at a range of Australian properties – including the NRL, A-League, AFL and rugby union – prior to COVID-19. Now many of the teams and codes are on the brink financially, they have become even more appealing to prospective owners seeking a bargain.

It has become clear the NRL is operating on an unsustainable financial model, one in which head office spends almost $500,000 a day to run yet doesn’t own a single asset. The clubs themselves are also struggling, with only two of the 16 regularly in the black. However, Gurr believes savvy investors could seek a piece of the action if costs can be slashed.

“If you look overseas in 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys for ($US140m) – now they are worth billions,” Gurr said.

“For him it has been an absolute game changer financially, he has made a lot of money out of it.

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“For [investors] it’s all about alternatives – if they are to put x amount of money into a league or a club, where else they can go to make money.

“They are usually looking for distressed assets they think they can improve and generate cash flow and improve capital value of those assets over a period of time.

“When you have a league that collectively doesn’t make money, the investors will be looking to structure it in a way that ensures it does make money.

“Ideally they would also be spinning off some operational cash flow as well.

“While our great game should be attractive to potential investors under a recalibrated financial model, for the sake of our fans, the main objective should be to get through this crisis with our current 16 clubs.”

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