NZ Warriors go on the front foot for their fans

AARON LAWTON
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014
Eric Watson
Jason Oxenham
IN THE WARS: Eric Watson is embroiled in a battle with his fellow Warriors co-owner Sir Owen Glenn.

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Eric Watson won't rule out offering Warriors members a share of their club as a solution to his damaging partnership battle with Sir Owen Glenn.

Watson and Glenn remain at odds after a messy week of public mudslinging following the sacking of coach Matthew Elliott.

In attempt to regain some lost ground yesterday, the Warriors went on the front foot by re-signing captain Simon Mannering, offering up their chief executive's head if they fail to make this season's National Rugby League play-offs, making noises about selling shares to club members and attempting to pacify upset fans by saying they want to stay at Mt Smart Stadium.

The ownership remains the hot topic and Watson, in a lengthy interview with Fairfax Media, said he was committed to buying out Glenn's half share, bought for over $6m.

He also hinted at being open to selling shares to the 9000-plus Warriors club members.

"We have a lot of members and they are the people we owe the first duty to in many ways," he said.

"Would they like to have a financial involvement in the club? Look, if that made sense, well, the Broncos are publicly listed. I'd have no problem with that at all if that made sense. Whatever is best for the Warriors."

Watson was happy to have an independent valuation after Glenn had earlier accused him of trying to buy it back cheaply.

"My view is that we would get two or three valuers to value it and then we'd take an average of those valuations," he said.

Watson admitted it could take some time for him and Glenn to sort out the shareholding.

"It could take forever . . . but quite frankly, it doesn't matter. The club is properly governed."

Watson also conceded Warriors fans were not happy with games being moved to Eden Park.

"My vision is that we have a stadium with 20,000 or 30,000 members at Mt Smart - where we ideally want to be, even if the council can't get its act together - but Eden Park is not Mt Smart. The members have told us they want Mt Smart and we understand that. We need to toughen up as an organisation, and we need to be seen to be tough. We need to be seen to be accountable.

Watson was firmly trying to portray the club as not being in crisis and attempted to deflect fan anger against chief executive Wayne Scurrah - accused of presiding over a parade of vanquished coaches.

"What we want and what we've always had until now is a very functional organisation," he asserted in a long interview with the Sunday Star-Times "The NRL will tell you that this is one of their top three governed clubs without a doubt. We are better run than the majority of NRL clubs.

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"It's nonsense to say the club's in disarray. It's far from in disarray. It's incredibly sound. It's financially stable but we have a rogue shareholder, which has been damaging. You don't see Russell Crowe in the newspaper abusing his club and what they are doing because he wants to sell his shares.

"This just needs to be put to one side. The business is well governed, has a board with independent directors, and will continue to flourish. Despite the fact that people think otherwise, the Warriors are flourishing. That will continue irrespective of the poor behaviour of one of the shareholders.

"The job now is to try and get past that and make sure the members, the fans and the media understand that this business will go on. It does have a new coach. Shocking news, isn't it? Wow, an NRL team changed its coach because it thought it had a better one."

Watson confirmed Mannering's contract had been extended for four years and said the skipper's decision was a vote of confidence in the club's future.

"Simon had many options and with the money in the NRL increasing significantly of late, players like Simon can command large contracts with any team in Australasia. Simon could have waited and thought about what he wanted to do. Or he could step up now and support his new coach and take any doubt out of the system. Doubt is weakness. I believe we will be able to say that Simon's made the right decision."

He also revealed Scurrah had offered his resignation last year but he had not accepted it. Scurrah had made the same offer if the Warriors failed to make this year's top eight finals, only this time Watson said he would accept it.

- Sunday Star Times

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