The Bulldogs, who are also asking for small donations, are one of several Sydney clubs under huge financial stress due to the closure of its leagues club amid the coronavirus crisis. They started the season without a major sponsor and its ASF blurb claims it is under “unprecedented pressure to survive in the toughest rugby league competition in the world”.
South Sydney’s ASF project has also been rewritten to ask its members and supporters to “stand shoulder to shoulder” to overcome one of the club’s “greatest ever challenges”.
It says 90 per cent of staff were stood down when the NRL season was suspended with “COVID-19 … putting at risk the operations of our club”.
It says the money raised through the ASF will help “core functions including re-employing Rabbitohs staff across the business to ensure that the club can remain viable into the future”.
We noticed that a lot of AFL clubs had success in raising funds for their community programs or high-performance centres.
“We noticed that a lot of AFL clubs had success in raising funds for their community programs or high-performance centres,” Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said. “Through Souths Cares we do a degree of fundraising anyway, it’s a registered not-for-profit anyway.
“In some ways the sports foundation was just another vehicle for either our community programs or the high-performance centre, but when this all hit we went out and said, ‘We’ve got this, we might need to do something about it for staff or Souths Cares’.”
The ASF has helped raise more than $345 million for sporting clubs across Australia, and any donation of $2 or more is subject to a tax deduction. The organisation claims it can be up to half of the donation depending on the individual’s income.
Most NRL clubs already run fundraising initiatives through the ASF, ranging from community-based projects to pledges for high-performance equipment and facilities.
The Raiders have been asking for donations of $250 or more from supporters to have their name featured on a playing jersey this year. The initiative has already banked more than $42,000.
The Tigers have raised more than $1m through the Wests Tigers Foundation, becoming one of the first elite rugby league clubs to list with the ASF.
“This was an initiative put forward by AFL clubs and the Wests Tigers spent a lot of time with Richmond and formulated its own model, which was the Wests Tigers Foundation,” Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis said.
“It’s proven incredibly successful among a host of top-tier sponsors and fans. We’ve created a Foundation XIII in which sponsors pay up to $100,000 and it’s a perpetual membership of the foundation.
“It creates a connection between the fans and the club in a tax-effective way and makes the funds available for use for other facilities in the club which may not be available.”
The NRL has initially been buoyed by the response of members who are capable of using their season membership as a donation to the club this year with little certainty about whether they can watch a game live.
The code will also grapple with issues surrounding sponsorships in coming weeks as it inches towards a May 28 return date.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.