Leading Rugby League writer Phil Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph has dropped a bombshell today on his ‘Buzz Blog’ suggesting the Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights are in danger of financially collapsing in the near future.
While some knew of the financial concern surrounding the clubs, more specifically the Sharks – Rothfield has suggested the situation is much more dire than first expected with the NRL watching closely in case a rescue package is required in the short-term.
With the on-set of the financial crisis only adding to the tough situations clubs found themselves in, the poor gate takings at Cronulla in recent seasons have really taken their toll. Even when the Sharks came in equal first at the end of the 2008 regular season, their attendance record was extremely poor.
More confusing, is the fact that the Sharks have a ‘suburban’ home ground, nestled ideally within the local community – with facilities close by and good results recently, it should be packed out. But it seems the folks in the Shire are shunning their local team.
The Sharks required additional loans during the off-season but were rejected by the banks initially, with the amount the club was requesting simply too high a risk for the lending institutions. The banks eventually offered an amount reduced by $500,000 but the NRL needed to get involved to assist at the time.
Insiders at Cronulla are hoping a last minute deal could be brokered with a secret local backer, but it seems discussions are at their extreme infancy. While Souths and Manly have had third-party backing to keep their hopes alive – many businessmen are aware of the financial blackhole an NRL team presents and aren’t in a hurry to get involved.
For the Knights, it’s slight different – in that they don’t have a Leagues club to financially back them. This has always proved a problem, but their outstanding debt of around $3 million is becoming a heavy noose around their necks. Without immediate relief, they too are in danger of needing a bailout.
However, Newcastle are a regional club and with strong support they present a good proposal to be rescued or propped up by the governing body or a 3rd party backer that could clean things up.
But for the Cronulla Sharks, with support virtually non-existent in their home town and the fact they are essentially a ‘Sydney-based club’ – their heads could be on the chopping block.
The timing seems awfully coincidental, but the Central Coast Bears proposal has been quickly revived – with the Coastal outfit providing more details of their plans; including logos, coaching appointments and strong backing from influential government figures.
Will there be a rush to save a dying Sydney club? Or will it simply be survival of the fittest?
Everyone knows there are too many teams in Sydney, sadly the weaker clubs folding might be the only way the competition is rationalised and allowed to leverage the larger support that lies in regional and inter-state areas.