If you’re a Cronulla supporter, there is no doubt this is a worrying time. But given the current situation, the club and it’s fans must look to longer term success rather than a quick stop gap solution to plug their financial blackhole.
It’s widely known that the Sharks have a serious debt problem at the moment, they are in a hole to the tune of $9 million and operated at a loss of$1.4 million last year.
The latest suggestion of the club moving 5 home games to the Central Coast, is purely a move to try and tap into some of the NRL’s relocation money. David Gallop and the NRL have said their idea of relocating ‘some’ games is not good enough to release some of the relocation money and the Sharks will now open talks with the Bluetongue Stadium group to look at what financial incentives they can offer by playing games on the Coast.
While the Sharks have some strong assets in the form of land around their Cronulla base, assets which they are looking to quickly develop and possibly sell-off to solve their financial problems – it becomes clear the Sharks are simply ‘using’ the Central Coast as a stop-gap solution.
It’s estimated the Sharks could receive around $100,000 per game financially by taking their matches to the Central Coast – an additional $500,000 a season.
But let’s look further down the line.
Let’s say Cronulla successfully launch a development of their land around their Shire base, if they buck the trend of the economic crisis and make good on their plans to develop and sell – they could make a dent in their large debts.
Now time is important here, because of the seriousness of the debt – the club must be cautious not to go any deeper, at present their loans could be ‘called in’ at any time, which would see the bank wind the club up immediately.
But short term money problems aside, the real problem is the clubs foundations. Put simply, they are not getting fans through the gates – win, lose or draw.
The Sharks are one of the luckier teams, in that they have a ‘suburban’ home ground, close to their fan base and with reasonable parking for anyone that comes to the game. It should be a cauldron for opposing teams, yet most times it’s a ghost town – with rarely more than 10,000 arriving on game day or night.
Cronulla need to look 10-15 years ahead. While the next few years are important to solve their immediate financial problems, they will surely come round again if the club doesn’t plan to make money in the longer term.
Even a full-blown relocation to the Central Coast is a crazy move for the Sharks club. The locals have confirmed they want a team with it’s own identity, not someone who is purely looking at a cash grab.
The Sharks could secure the $9 million NRL relocation kitty by moving to the Coast, but fans have suggested they wouldn’t consider the likes of Cronulla even as their ‘second’ team. This is a situation that should not only scare the Sharks, but other Sydney-based NRL teams considering a relocation to Gosford.
It sits well for the Bears, the Central Coast hopeful’s that have their own logo and have seemingly forged a connection with the local community up there. The Gosford-folk seemingly more willing to enjoy a game featuring a team with closer ties. When locals were interviewed, they suggested that even some of them who were diehard Sydney team supporters but live on the Coast – would enjoy several Coast games and embraced the Bears as their ‘second’ team.
Where does this leave the cash-strapped and rudderless Sharks?
Cronulla must swallow their pride, and while never forgetting their past, they must look to a bold relocation plan – with Adelaide seeming the best option at this stage.
Such a move could open the doors to the NRL’s $9 million booty and the Sharks, with some minor rebranding and redesign could establish new ties with an untapped support base in Adelaide.
With the right planning and strong on-field results, the Sharks could build a massive, lucrative supporter base that could soon be the envy of the NRL. While there will always be some Shire fans that will be frustrated at the relocation, the fact that fans haven’t been voting with their feet at current Sharks home games means the club has every right to look to larger regions.
The AFL has proved it can work, just look at highly successful outfits the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions – both former Melbourne teams relocated and now enjoying massive single-state support.
The Sharks and their management must look at the likes of the Broncos, Melbourne and Warriors – who while they have had their ups and downs, enjoy massive support from their respective regions and the Broncos in particular have a very impressive financial model.
So Sharkies fans, buckle-up, support your team and help management ‘get real’ about the longer term future. Selling off assets and going for quick cash grabs can only last so long, be bold, look to the future, relocate totally and set yourselves up for life.