Rabbitohs Owners' Message on Pokies

6th December 2007

Dear Members, the email below has been written by Russell and I to spread our thoughts on plans for the South Sydney Leagues Club. I present to the Leagues Club board next week and we are trying to build as much broad support for the idea of a club with no pokies. Please feel free to comment in the members-only forum at www.souths.com.au or visit facebook.com and search for "a club with no pokies". If you support the plans, please forward this email to others who might be able to lend their support. And once again, thanks for being part of the rebuilding of the Rabbitohs. Peter.

We need a little of your help, from Peter and Russell

Exactly 18 months ago today we took on the responsibility of turning around the South Sydney Rabbitohs. For those not familiar with our particular sporting passion, the Rabbitohs are an iconic Australian sporting team that plays arguably the toughest brand of football in the world, Rugby League. The team hails from a historically tough part of Sydney and our past includes winning the most premierships of any professional football team in Australia (although very little silverware in the last 35 years). We wear red and green, with a rabbit, you may have heard of us.

In 2007 we made urgent repairs to the facilities for the players, supported a new coaching team, and made much progress in fixing the business side of the club. Next year the team returns to a new state of the art training facility in Redfern, the inner city suburb where we were founded in January of 1908. Adjacent to our training base will be the South Sydney Leagues Club, the social club associated with the Rabbitohs that has its own independent board. When the renovated social club reopens we are working to ensure it does not put poker machines back into the Redfern community.

Poker machines and the impact they have on the community are an important debate Australia needs to have. However we are not moralising here, and we are certainly not the fun police. We just believe that low-income areas (such as Redfern) need less poker machines rather than more. We want to see a club that brings together our members and the broad community, is a place where families can gather for conversation and a good meal, and the distracting din of poker machines doesn't stop the conversation or drown out live music. We can't give guarantees to the Leagues Club Board to replace the revenue people believe will flow so easily from poker machines. However, our plan brings in a successful restaurant operator that will guarantee good food and the Football Club will help deliver events throughout the year to make the club a vibrant and inclusive place for Sydneysiders to gather. The restaurant operator, Con Dedes, has won awards for his five star Flying Fish restaurant but he also serves a wide range of well priced meals at his other venues. We are seeking your help to convince the Leagues Club Board. Peter presents our plan to on December 11 that a "club with no pokies" can work in Redfern in 2008. To send a message of support please visit facebook.com and search for "a club with no pokies". Add a comment, join the group, buy a "club with no pokies" t-shirt, or become a Rabbitohs Member. Whatever you are able to do to support our plans is greatly appreciated, and please forward this email to others that may support our plan.

Thank you,
Peter Holmes à Court and Russell Crowe

Update on Football Club proposal to Leagues Club Board

11th December 2007

On December 11 the Football Club met with the Leagues Club Board and presented our proposal to create a modern, flexible, inclusive, family-friendly club and function space. A space where members and non-members can gather. A place where Leagues Club members of the past will feel comfortable, and new residents of Redfern and the surrounding areas will embrace as their local. A place where SSFC sponsors and city businesses can bring large groups for meetings and functions. A place large enough so that sports fans can watch the footy (or cricket or netball) on big screens while diners can have a quiet dinner at the other end of the club with the kids joining them, not left at home.

Our proposed club will give Leagues Club members access to a club almost twice the size of their planned club (2500 sq metres vs currently 1500 sq metres), more guaranteed parking and a guaranteed income to the Leagues Club per annum of $250,000. Plus we will cover many costs the Leagues Club would normally have to pay, it requires no capital risk from members funds, and agrees to give back a renovated 1500sq metre club if our plans are not successful.

We respect that the Leagues Club has an independent board and that they have to balance their charter (unchanged since 1958) that requires them to provide a club for the enjoyment of members and to support the South Sydney Rabbitohs. I am led to believe the majority of the Board were sympathetic to our plea that the best way they could help the Football Club is to help us establish what we believe is "a club for the future".

Some people argue that having poker machines may bring in more money. I greatly doubt this due to the rapidly changing gaming legislation, new smoking bans, the new "Small Bars Liquor Act of 2007" and demonstrated by the number of small clubs closed or near closing in the area. However, even if poker machines can bring in more money we argued that it is not the job of the Leagues Club to make the most money possible. It is to create a club for the enjoyment of members - which we believe a larger club with more facilities does - and support the Football Club. The type of club we proposed will support the Football Club as it will create a gathering place for a large number of members. A place the Football Club can hold functions - from team announcements, to player reunions to South Cares events. This will help us grow our Membership which is the single most important off-field target for the Club as we go into our second century. The Board have asked for time to review our legal advice. We continue to work with them to show how we believe the Football Club's proposal is in the best interests of Leagues Club members and absolutely in keeping with the charter they are bound to uphold. Another meeting has been set for Tuesday the 18th of December.

Peter Holmes à Court

SS Leagues Club Says No to Poker Machines

20th December 2007

The South Sydney Leagues Club (SSLC) Board has reached a majority decision to have no poker machines in the Club upon completion of the redevelopment in 2008. The SSLC Board voted by a 4-3 majority to accept a proposal put forward by the South Sydney Football Club (SSFC) which will see the Club become poker machine-free in Redfern.

The proposal will see South Sydney Football Club seek to work with SSLC:

  • to develop a 2500m2 club on Level 1 of the Rabbitohs Building at 265 Chalmers Street, Redfern;
  • to form a partnership with an experienced food and beverage venue operator, to manage the new facility;
  • to create a family friendly club where children are welcome to enter the club restaurants and function spaces with their parents;
  • to increase the parking available to SSLC members;
  • to make this facility a consistently profitable operation which financially supports the South Sydney Rabbitohs, to help ensure it becomes a consistently successful football team well into the future;
  • to support the Leagues Club with services such as marketing, membership services, co-promotion, management support, media/PR, events and business to business opportunities.

    SSFC Executive Chairman Peter Holmes à Court said this is the best decision for the community of Redfern. “We want to thank the Board of the Leagues Club for their support of this concept and their commitment to help make the proposal a success,” Mr Holmes à Court said.

    “We will work with the Leagues Club Board to create a family friendly Club where children are welcome to enter the club restaurants and function spaces with their parents. The Football Club will be able to hold large events in the Club and the two organisations will work closely together to provide facilities for the community.

    “This decision is about what is best for the community of Redfern and the work of both organisations within that community. Supporters of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, and its stance, can personally support the Club by becoming a Football Club Member. The days of massive Leagues Club grants from poker machines to Football Clubs are things of the past.

    “The AFL has shown the way on this. They don’t have more Members per Club or bigger crowds because people think it’s a better game. It’s because they have made the game about Membership and about Members playing an active role says no to pokies within their Club. This is what needs to happen across Rugby League, especially in NSW.

    “Significant increases in Football Club Membership (at the Season Ticketed level) will form the foundation of financial stability for NSW Rugby League Clubs going forward, with the Rabbitohs calling on its faithful to lead the charge in NSW, as over 9000 Members have already done including 4300 Ticketed Members. A large and strong Football Club Membership base will drive more people through the doors of the Leagues Club and the other facilities the precinct will have to offer.

    “SSFC Membership (which includes access to the Leagues Club in 2008) is how thousands of Rabbitohs fans show their support for what this Club does on the field, in the local community and throughout the country. “SSFC and the Leagues Club have made a united move to focus supporters' energies on becoming Members of the Football Club to support their endeavours in this community.”

    Chairman of South Sydney Leagues Club Bill Alexiou-Hucker said the decision of his Board opens up some exciting opportunities.

    “We’re looking forward to working on a poker machine-free Club and working with the Football Club and the local community in creating a new-style licensed Club for the people of Redfern,” Mr Alexiou-Hucker said. “We will not only have a Club that is more family friendly and more welcoming, but we will again be working with the Football Club, that represents this district, to provide the best support for the community.

    “The deal we have struck will mean SSLC Members will have a better venue that will be 2500m2 instead of the original 1500m2, there will be better facilities for Members and the Leagues Club Board will be able to offer Members better deals and promotions at the Club. “It also means the Football Club will be able to hold large events at the venue, something which hasn’t been able to happen in recent years. “We, as a Board, have made a commitment to do everything we can to make this work and we’re excited about the challenge ahead.”