Club Update from Eels CEO Bernie Gurr

Members: 

It is now appropriate to update our valued Members and stakeholders on recent developments within our Parramatta Eels Rugby League Club.

We entered into the 2018 NRL season with high hopes for another competitive year but are extremely disappointed with the results to date; to put it simply, our team has not performed well.

We have been analysing all areas of our Club and are committed to improving our operations and results.

1.     Strategic Plan: 2019 to 2021

From a long-term perspective, the Board and senior management recognise the importance of developing and implementing a legitimate Strategic Plan for our Club.

This Strategic Plan will cover the period from 2019 through the end of 2021 and cover all areas of our business, including, but not limited to:

  • Football Department (both NRL & Junior Representative Program)
  • Parramatta Junior League
  • Commercial / Sponsorship
  • Membership & Fan Engagement
  • Game Day & Events
  • Communications & Brand
  • Merchandise
  • Community
  • Facilities & Infrastructure
  • Finance & Governance

We are committed to producing a coordinated, meaningful roadmap for our Club, particularly as we head home next year to the new Western Sydney Stadium.

2.     Football Department Review

As many of you are probably aware, the Board, with my input, is conducting a review of our Club’s Football Department. The review is expected to take about 8 weeks but may take longer.

Our aspiration for our Parramatta Eels is to have a “Best Practice” Football Department - our fans, stakeholders and staff deserve and expect this.

The Board and I are determined to ensure that the Football Department has the available resources to give the Eels the best possible opportunity to succeed on the field. On-field success is a key driver of our off-field success.

The scope of review includes all aspects of the Football Department including:

  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Player Roster Management & Salary Cap
  • Coaching & Support (NRL, Intrust Super Cup & Junior Representative Program)
  • Parramatta Junior League
  • High Performance
  • Player Wellbeing & Education
  • Medical Support
  • Facilities

We plan to engage an experienced third party to provide an independent assessment of our Football Department. Once the review is completed we will provide an update. At our core, we are a Football Club and we are totally committed to supporting our Rugby League programs with the very best resources and practices.

3.     Players

We continue to look to improve our Player Roster. 

We are regularly reviewing our Player Roster to determine positions we need to strengthen and layering that review across the Players available on the market. The Player Roster is linked to the management of the Salary Cap. Our recruitment process involves regular meetings involving Peter Sharp, our Head of Recruitment & Retention, our Head Coach, Brad Arthur, and myself as CEO & Head of Football.

One of the areas we recognised within our Player Roster was the need to add some size to our forward pack. Accordingly, we have signed front rower Junior Paulo on a 4-year deal; Junior is 24 years old, a Parramatta Eels junior and has his best football ahead of him. The contracted amounts reported in the media have been inflated and we are excited to welcome Junior back to our Club.

At the commencement of the 2017 season, our Club re-committed to strengthening the development pathways for elite young Rugby League players. The goal of this process was to further strengthen our Junior Representative Program (Under 20 Jersey Flegg, Under 18 S G Ball & Under 16 Harold Matthews teams) so as to generate a pipeline of future NRL Players. This process has 2 components, namely (i) the development of playing talent from within our Parramatta Junior League (PJL) and (ii) the recruitment & development of young Players outside of the PJL.

We continue to look at additional Players to strengthen our squad for season 2019 and beyond.

Regarding our Parramatta Junior League, we have more young players registered now than this time last year; we are on track to have over 5,500 kids playing in 2018.

4.     Western Sydney Stadium

The brand-new Western Sydney Stadium (WSS) provides a generational opportunity for our Club.

This 30,000 seat, $360 million facility will be the absolute best game day atmosphere and experience in the NRL for club Rugby League. We are currently in the process of negotiating a commercial agreement with the operators of WSS. This deal will provide an additional financial platform for our Club moving forward.

WSS is due for completion around April 2019 so we are not sure when we will be able to christen the ground with our Parramatta Eels. 

We are committed to ensuring that we transition our Members in to the new WSS in a seamless manner.

We are coming home to Parramatta!

5.     Financial Information & Governance

From a broader perspective, I think it is appropriate to provide some context around the issues of Constitutional reform and the financial performance of our Parramatta Eels Club. Strong financial performance, combined with high standards of corporate governance, are the “building blocks” for our Club’s future.

2017 was a year of transition for our Club. Across the last 2 years, since Max Donnelly assumed the Chairman’s role in July 2016 and I arrived as CEO in October 2016, we have been working diligently in a few key areas:

  • Constitutional Reform of Parramatta National Rugby League Club Pty Limited (PNRL):
    Max has led the efforts to enact constitutional reform, with the principle objective of delivering a quality Board of Directors for the Parramatta Eels. This Board was instituted in February 2017 and comprises 2 Directors nominated from the Parramatta Leagues Club (100% owner of PNRL), namely Max Donnelly and Jim Sarantinos, and 5 independent Directors who commenced in late February 2017, namely Vicki Leaver, Sean McElduff, Michael McRitchie, Col Robertshaw and Anthony Shiner.

    Members can be assured that all Board members love the game of Rugby League and are 100% committed to the success of the Parramatta Eels.
  • Financial Performance & Sustainability:
    A key objective has been building a solid financial platform for our Club so we have long-term sustainability. We recognise that a strong financial base is imperative to provide our fans with a long-term viable Club.

    We simply could not continue to incur the substantial operating losses that placed pressure on our owner, Parramatta Leagues Club, which is required to make a contribution to fund these operating losses. In the 2016 financial year, PNRL had an operational loss of approx. $12.0M. The 2017 year was a transition year, with many legacy issues remaining and so the operational loss was approx. $10.2M.

    In 2018 we forecast that this operational loss will reduce to around $5.5M, a substantial turn-around that provides a strong financial platform for us to continue to build a sustainable Club.

    It is crucial to realise that this improved financial performance has NOT been at the expense of the money required to fund our Football Programs.

    It is also important to recognise that our parent company, Parramatta Leagues Club, is a profitable business, a most vital element of our financial sustainability.

    We recognise that our “Parramatta Eels” brand had been damaged in recent years so it is refreshing to report that, in 2018, our Commercial / Sponsorship Department has increased revenues by 41% from 2017, while our Membership revenues have increased by approx. 25%. We look forward to these numbers further improving in 2019 and beyond.

Accordingly, the macro goal of the Parramatta Eels National Rugby League Club is to be a successful, first-class sports organisation, with all decisions and behaviours consistent with our core Values of:

  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Excellence 

Having established our Values, we also have clarity around the direction of our Club by setting a clear Purpose; we are focused on successful Rugby League programs and a commitment to our Community programs, namely the Parramatta Junior League, schools and charity partners. We will be fan-centric and provide value for our commercial partners. We are committed to providing professional and ethical management for the Parramatta Eels. We all want “1 Parramatta, a united Parramatta”.

While we are going through tough times on the field, there are many great people involved in our Parramatta Eels Club and there is a real sense of unity and commitment from the entire organisation – Players, Coaching & Support Staff, Front Office Staff and Directors – to work diligently to produce a Club of which our wonderful fans can be proud.

We will provide a further update at the end of the NRL regular season.

Bernie Gurr                                                                                         

Chief Executive Officer