A conflict of interests … Benny Elias.BALMAIN Tigers fans have called on the Balmain Tigers Leagues Club to hold an extraordinary general meeting to explain revelations detailing the financial involvement of the former club great Benny Elias in the club’s controversial redevelopment.
Darcy Byrne, the founder of the Tigers Against the Towers group which opposes the plans for high-rise apartments on the site, said an extraordinary meeting is needed to inform club members ”about the club’s mounting debts and the nature of their financial relationship with developer Rozelle Village”.
On Saturday the Herald revealed Mr Elias owns a company, Fordmont Pty Ltd, which owns a 50 per cent state in Rozelle Village Pty Ltd, which is seeking to redevelop the club’s Victoria Road site.
The Herald reported Mr Elias, a former club champion, has been encouraging club supporters to sign petitions and letters of support for the controversial $300 million redevelopment without informing them of his financial interest.
”Until now, the clear impression members have been left with was that Benny Elias had no financial involvement in Rozelle Village,” Mr Byrne, who is also a Labor councillor on Leichhardt Council, said.
”There are serious questions to be answered and an extraordinary meeting is the best way to ensure transparency for the club’s members. They have a right to know if anyone has been profiteering at their expense … If anyone has misled Tigers members and fans for financial gain, they must now be held to account.”
Father and daughter Tigers fans and Balmain residents Alan and Laura Pressley said they were appalled at the development proposal that includes a 32-story tower in the low-rise neighbourhood. They were also alarmed by the Herald revelations about Mr Elias’s financial involvement, including part ownership of Rozelle Village and financial benefits from loan agreements.
”I did not realise that. It’s frightening how much money he stands to make,” Mr Pressley said. He said an extraordinary meeting would be a good way to air the issues surrounding Mr Elias’s financial interests.
”I’d support that. I think it needs to be brought out because there’s probably a lot of people who don’t know what’s going on there, as I didn’t till I read the article,” he said.
Laura Pressley attends all Tigers games still played in Leichhardt and regrets signing a Save the Tigers petition at a stall manned by Mr Elias a few months backs without realising it backed the development.
”The immediate connection you make when you see the stall is he has the best interests of the club at heart,” she said.
”Reading about it now, I feel a bit duped by that. I am not at all favour of the current proposal for the club site.”
The chairman of the Balmain Tigers Rugby League Club, David Trodden, denied aspects of the article, including that the club had breached the Registered Clubs Act when it sold the club. He said members had voted to do so because it was the best financial decision for the club. He did not dispute Mr Elias stood to benefit financially from the arrangements or that many supporters were unaware of them.
”In real terms, but for the deal struck between Rozelle Village and Balmain Leagues Club [including sale, redevelopment and loan agreements], it is highly likely that the club may have been forced to either massively downsize or possibly fold,” Mr Trodden said.
Plans for the redevelopment are now before the independent Planning Assessment Commission, which is unlikely to make a determination until late in the year.
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