Tigers $1 million-per-season sponsorship at risk following club review

Julian Miller
By:
Julian Miller
30/11/2023
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Tigers sponsorship at risk following review of club operations

An independent commission is suggesting one of Tigers’ biggest sponsors step down from his position as club director. 

News Insights

  • 2,000 Tigers fans called for an independent review of the club following back-to-back bottom finishes.
  • The independent commission has suggested the club’s directors step down.
  • Chairman Lee Hagipantelis’s law firm may withdraw their $1m-per-season sponsorship if he is removed.
  • Hagipantelis’ removal could also affect Tigers’ plans to sign Jarome Luai.

Following a second consecutive Wooden Spoon win, 2,000 Wests Tigers fans requested an independent review into the club’s organisational structure. Club directors acquiesced and commissioned a review.  
 
The Sydney Morning Herald is now reporting one of Wests Tigers biggest sponsors may be stepping away from the club following this review. 

Independent review recommends axing directors, putting sponsorship at risk 

Per the Sydney Morning Herald, the reason Wests Tigers sponsorship is at risk relates to its chairman, Lee Hagipantelis. In addition to being club chairman, Hagipantelis owns the Brydens Lawyers legal firm. Brydens Lawyers is the largest litigation firm in New South Wales and is Wests Tigers shirt sponsor.  
 
The commission tasked with reviewing Wests Tigers has recommended that Hagipantelis and the club’s two other independent directors step down from their roles at the club. The commission has not suggested any wrongdoing by Hagipantelis or any other director, but the review is still ongoing.  
 
Hagipantelis has been Tigers chairman since 2019. If the commission’s recommendation is accepted, he will step away from the club. With Hagipantelis leaving, many also expect Brydens Lawyers to terminate their Tigers sponsorship.  
 
It is believed that Brydens Lawyers pay Tigers close to one million dollars per year as their front-of-shirt sponsor. The current deal is set to expire at the end of the 2024 NRL season. It is unclear whether Hagipantelis would take action to terminate the sponsorship early or let it run out at the end of the 2024 NRL season.

Hagipantelis claims witch hunt

Tigers owners, Holman Barnes Group, welcomed this independent review. Hagipantelis and the other directors did not. That is putting it mildly.  
 
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Hagipantelis believes this review is designed solely to force him out of the club. Other reports claim Hagipantelis was asked to step down by the Holman Barnes Group earlier this year but refused.  
 
Publicly, Hagipantelis has denied these reports and refused to comment about the ongoing review. “This review has been commissioned by the Holman Barnes group and all enquiries concerning the review should be directed to them,” said Hagipantelis.  
 
Tony Andreacchio, another member of the Tigers board, has backed Hagipantelis and the independent review. “At the moment we have an external review on the whole club,” said Andreacchio. “This review is very critical,” he added before backing Hagipantelis, saying “I think any comment doesn’t serve any purpose at the moment. Currently he is the chairman.

Tigers in the middle of massive rebuild 

A boardroom shakeup would be one of many changes currently taking place at Tigers. The club have undergone a total rebuild following their last two disastrous seasons.  
 
The club has appointed former player Benji Marshall as their new head coach. They have also made moves to improve the squad such as acquiring veteran half Aidan Sezer and Dragons’ Jayden Sullivan. Even with these moves, Tigers are expected to finish near the bottom of the ladder, according to the betting sites.

Tigers plan on changing their odds and jump starting their rebuild by signing big stars. The club have made a massive $4.5 million bid for Penrith Panthers’ Jarome Luai. Addin Fonua-Blake is another high-profile target Tigers are reportedly chasing.  
 
There is no indication that losing Hagipantelis and the Brydens Lawyers sponsorship will affect Tigers’ rebuild plans. 

The Tigers board and Hagipantelis will have until December 12 to accept the independent commission’s recommendations. This is the final meeting of 2023. If the recommendations are accepted, it could also be Hagipantelis’ last ever board meeting as Tigers’ chairman.