Hamilton deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman has called out Chiefs' boss Dallas Fisher over the possible loss of Super Rugby games from the city to Taranaki.
Mr Chesterman claims councillors are still in the dark over the Chiefs' courting of the Taranaki Rugby Union to invest in the champion Waikato franchise, and said Mr Fisher should come clean over the potential deal and state whether there was any danger of the city losing games to Taranaki.
He said Hamilton ratepayers had pumped millions of dollars into venues for the city's major professional sporting codes, and the potential from the Chiefs deal to see games moved away from the stadium was a "slap in the face".
Any deal appears far from done, but media have speculated that up to two games per season could go at Yarrow Stadium, and Mr Chesterman said the franchise should state whether that could be at Hamilton's expense.
But Mr Fisher is tight-lipped on the effects for Hamilton, saying the current contract the franchise held with the city council stipulated that a minimum number of games per year be held at Waikato Stadium, and "we will be honouring that current contract".
He took umbrage with Mr Chesterman publicly questioning the deal, but Mr Chesterman said as a councillor he'd heard nothing from Mr Fisher.
He said the council should be around the table with the Chiefs now rather than waiting for the current deal to expire, "when it may be too late".
He said the city carried almost $90 million of debt for Waikato Stadium and the Claudelands Events Centre used by the Magic netball franchise, and the Chiefs would be ignoring that investment if it shifted games away.
Under a deal struck with the Chiefs in 2011 the city council gets a share of ticket and concession income, from which it has profited in the past two years as the Chiefs' championship campaigns filled seats and coffers.
But Mr Chesterman said the likely sale of a shareholding in the Chiefs could be bad news for Hamilton.
"The Chiefs have always allocated games to Tauranga and Rotorua but now the franchise is talking about two games for Taranaki. Who will miss out? I expect that to be Hamilton," he said.
"It's time the Chiefs' board came out of the closet and publicly state what the impact will be of this clever investment deal and whether games at the stadium are at risk, or whether Tauranga and Rotorua are the losers."
He said fewer games for Hamilton would ignore the investment by city ratepayers to provide a world-class stadium, primarily for rugby union.
The stadium was a proven performer in pulling crowds and was regarded by rugby commentators as one of the best in Australasia.
"I have no difficulties with outside investment, but I do have a major problem if this translates into a reduction in games played in Hamilton." He said over the next 10 years more than $8 million would be paid by ratepayers in interest on the council's $12 million Waikato Stadium debt.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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