BATHURST Regional Council has taken the first step in cementing a long-term relationship with the Western Sydney Wanderers A-League club that, it is hoped, will mirror the city's deal with the NRL's Penrith Panthers.
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Councillors agreed - at an extraordinary meeting held on June 29 to adopt the council budget for 2022-23 - to put $200,000 towards bringing the Western Sydney Wanderers to Bathurst after a submission made by councillor Ian North.
It was one of only a small number of changes made to the budget.
Councillor North told the Western Advocate the day after the council meeting that he had made initial contact with the Wanderers about three years ago when he was deputy mayor and, though COVID had caused disruptions in recent times, the lines of communication had remained open.
He said he had met the Wanderers' board, spoken to sponsors and been through the football club's complex over the years, but it had, to this point, only been discussions about the club coming to Bathurst.
He said the A-League club - which delivered a presentation to council a few weeks ago - was about much more than just football, as shown by its hosting of the Afghan National Cup last year and African Cup in 2020.
"They have a very big social engagement with the community," he said.
Cr North said he anticipated that the Wanderers would begin with a visit of a few days next year, including camps for children, to introduce themselves to the Bathurst community and an A-League game at Carrington Park would follow in the 2023-24 season.
He said the city might not host both the Wanderers' men's and women's fixtures straight away, but that would be the intention if the club's visit to Bathurst was locked in for the long term.
In terms of the $200,000 that council was committing, Cr North said there were millions of dollars in potential economic benefits to be realised if the Wanderers came to the city each year.
As a means of comparison, Bathurst Regional Council has previously estimated that holding an NRL game in Bathurst in one year creates six full-time equivalent jobs and $340,000 in household income, as well as generating $710,000 in the economy.
Council's $200,000 commitment was of interest to Cr Jess Jennings at council's extraordinary meeting, where it was agreed to allocate the money from an anticipated emergency services levy rebate.
"That is a lot of money, particularly out of a fund that we don't even have yet," Cr Jennings said.
"But if it does come forward, the emergency services levy [rebate], I actually do think it is good business for this council to support that endeavour [the Wanderers] and potentially create a long-term asset that delivers for years to come.
"Hence, I'm willing to support it.
"I'd also recognise that it would be an add-on to existing activity there which hopefully will create a critical mass of events in Bathurst at Carrington Park.
"The old saying is ... it will be a situation of public loss and private gain [the $200,000 commitment], but the real benefit of it will be to the Bathurst community in terms of bringing those large events, male and female, in the soccer world, to Bathurst."
Cr Marg Hogan asked what council would be getting from its $200,000 and general manager David Sherley said some of that would be commercial in confidence.
"The State Government has major events funding that they've been rolling out with COVID recovery, so we would look at actioning funding from that area to achieve the event [the Wanderers' visit to Bathurst]," he said.
He said the finer details would be subject to discussions with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
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