May 27, 2024

The Wests Tigers might need to search for a new primary sponsor if the independent review of the club results in the removal of chairman Lee Hagipantelis from the board. The Holman Barnes Group, which holds control on the Tigers board, initiated the review in response to a petition from around 2000 discontented supporters. The ongoing review, without a specified release date for its findings, provided an update to the Holman Barnes Group during a recent board meeting.

This publication uncovered a probable recommendation for the board’s commissioners to step back, potentially affecting Hagipantelis, an independent director. Notably, there is no indication of any wrongdoing by Hagipantelis or other directors. Aside from being the Tigers chairman, Hagipantelis, through his legal firm Brydens Lawyers, is the club’s major sponsor, contributing approximately $1 million per season until the contract concludes after the 2024 season.

NRL 2024: Wests Tigers face $1m-a-year hit as axe hovers over chairman Lee  Hagipantelis

Anonymous sources, acknowledging the pending release of the report, expressed concerns that Brydens may not renew the deal if Hagipantelis is no longer the chairman or a director. In such a scenario, the club would have to seek a new seven-figure sponsor after facing consecutive wooden spoons.

Hagipantelis chose not to comment when contacted by this publication. Meanwhile, the Tigers are actively pursuing top talents Jarome Luai and Addin Fonua-Blake. They presented Luai with a four-year, $4.5 million contract, coupled with the opportunity to become the club’s chief playmaker. Canterbury is also reportedly interested in Luai, as revealed by a meeting between Phil Gould, their general manager of football, and the NSW playmaker.

Gould, expressing a desire to attract Fonua-Blake, was seen in a meeting with the Warriors prop and his manager. The Tigers believe they have the salary cap flexibility to accommodate both Luai and Fonua-Blake without the need to offload players, although David Klemmer, a contracted prop, has been permitted to explore other options if interest arises.

Shane Flanagan, Dragons coach, has shown interest in Fonua-Blake, supported by Red V front-rower Blake Lawrie. Lawrie emphasized Fonua-Blake’s outstanding performance at the Warriors, positioning him as a top-three prop in the competition.

Efforts have also been made to negotiate a player swap involving Tigers forward Shaun Blore and Melbourne center Justin Olam, but an agreement has not been reached between the parties.

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