Auckland Rugby League want to buy the Warriors but negotiations are at a delicate stage with current owner Eric Watson holding out for top dollar.

The ARL yesterday confirmed they are in the race to purchase a majority share in the Auckland-based NRL club - but there's a limit to what they believe the franchise is worth and what they are willing to pay.

The Herald understands Watson is reluctant to sell the club for anything less than $20 million, while the ARL's offer sits below $15 million.

The situation is similar to the stalemate that squashed Auckland businessman Paul Davys' recent bid to buy the club, before his offer of $15 million was eventually rejected by Watson in late August - but there is greater optimism around the ARL's chances.


Davys, meanwhile, is rumoured to have recently resurrected his bid - but denied that was the case when contacted yesterday.

The ARL want to purchase the club in conjunction with corporate partners with strong business nous and have held initial talks with at least two potential investors.

While both parties are currently at odds over the value of the Warriors, Watson is understood to be enthusiastic about the ARL taking ownership of the club he has owned in part since 2000, and the benefits that could have for the Warriors and the game at both local and national level.

It's believed the ARL are open to Watson and former Warriors managing director-turned-executive chairman Jim Doyle, who owns a 10 per cent share, retaining a small stake in the business, as a potential compromise that could see the price come down.

Doyle declined the opportunity to comment on the matter, saying: "The potential sale and details around any potential individuals or groups involved is private and confidential."

The ARL yesterday notified the 32 affiliated local Auckland clubs of their bid and outlined their vision - with the planned purchase of the Warriors viewed as an investment that would see profits put back into growing and developing grassroots rugby league.

Central to their plans is re-establishing a semi-professional local Auckland competition like the Bartercard Cup, or enhancing the Fox Memorial competition, to bridge the divide between the amateur ranks and the NRL.

There are parallels between the ARL's bid and the NRL's recent $10 million sale of the Newcastle Knights to Wests Group - a Newcastle-owned and operated not-for-profit membership based organisation. The NRL took ownership of the Knights in 2014 after former owner Nathan Tinkler relinquished control of the club.

Central to the agreement, Wests Group have pledged to invest $10.6 million towards a Centre of Excellence for the Knights and spend a further $2.5 million on grassroots league in the Newcastle-Hunter region over the next five years.

The cash-strapped Knights - like the Warriors - have had difficulty hanging on to their best junior talent, with rich Sydney clubs regularly raiding their stocks. Both clubs have also struggled to sign big-name players and often had to pay overs to lure experienced representative stars.

The ARL hope the Warriors could replicate Penrith's successful model of junior and local development and player retention, providing a more direct pathway through to the Warriors NRL side and offering enough incentive to ensure the best local talent remains in New Zealand.

The ARL's submission also follows former Warriors captain Monty Betham's endeavors to front a bid on behalf of Warriors fans and sponsors. Betham and his team of mystery investors have had formal discussions with Watson and are still completing their due diligence.

The ARL are currently reluctant to fork out the considerable amount of cash to begin their own due diligence, until they can come to agreement on a price.