Today on Twitter I mentioned once again that I believe the Cronulla Sharks should relocate to Brisbane.
I point to the way they have struggled over their entire history financially and the way they are squeezed into a small area of Sydney with no room to grown. In Brisbane they would be one of just two teams in the city. They would have used of the magnificent Suncorp Stadium which would see their worst attendance figure there be much higher than their best crowds at Shark Park.
They would have a new player base to draw upon, a new sponsorship base that craves Rugby League, they would get more Free To Air television coverage……basically in the space of six months they would go from a club struggling just to survive into a club that is very, very strong.
Here is the thing though….
From a Sharks fans point of view, they don’t want to see their team leave! I can completely understand that. Hell, I don’t want to see the Sharks move either.
With that in mind, what if the NRL worked with other clubs to ensure that the Sharks could move to Brisbane, and yet played a number of games at Shark Park still?
If the NRL could strike a deal with say South Sydney, Canterbury, Manly, the Roosters and the Penrith Panthers to play their home games against the Sharks over at Shark Park, current Cronulla based fans would have at least five games a year at their current home ground. That isn’t even taking into account that you would play their game against the Dragons nearby at Kogarah Oval.
It wouldn’t take too much work for the game to be able to take a view that, we want to save this club, we want to give them every chance to not just survive, but thrive. We want them to be able to settle into a new area, but at the same time we want to still be able to service their traditional area.
How much of an effect would it have on current Cronulla based Sharks fans if they could still watch the Sharks play 8 games at Shark Park, but the team was located in Brisbane?
The biggest issue is making the decision that a club must move. When do you reach that tipping point?
I can’t imagine that a traditional football club like the Sharks would ever be pushed in that direction simply because football club boards don’t get voted back when one of the options on the table is that they will relocate the club. A football club board will not ever decide to jump off the gravy train!
I think a club would be much more likely to fold under a traditional club set up.
If a team has a private owner though, that would all change.
A private investor could look at the Sharks right now, as they are, and possibly see opportunity.
Buy into the club while it is struggling. Take ownership of its assets. Look to relocate your struggling team to a new area that will actually allow your new investment to generate money. It is controversial, it would need to be put to a vote by members, but it may be the only future for some clubs that are struggling to survive.
If my club, the Penrith Panthers, were in a situation where they didn’t have the huge backing of a Leagues club, it had a small junior base, small attendances and was struggling just to survive, with a heavy heart, I would want them to look at relocation.
Especially if they would relocate while at the same time playing a number of “Away” games at Penrith Football Stadium.
The NRL has a fund set up for clubs who decide to relocate completely to a new area. They have said they will offer any club that moves some help in getting set up, but they will only step in once a decision has been reached by a club.
Some current NRL clubs have looked at partial relocation, but the NRL will have none of it. They don’t want to hand over millions of dollars so the Sea Eagles play 6 home games at Gosford, they know they won’t work.
You also have a situation where the leaders of our sport don’t want to be seen as twisting the arm of any club and pushing them to relocate. It would be very unpopular if the NRL kept going to the Sharks with a relocation package in place, which is what I think the game needs to have on the table anyway for struggling Sydney clubs.
I personally believe that the NRL should have an open policy in terms of how a club would relocate. They should put it out into the public arena saying outlining stadium deals they have ready to go, sponsors that have shown interest, potential television coverage a team would receive, potential membership and junior numbers a team could draw from, and then last but not least, the lump sum of money the NRL offers a club for full relocation.
All of this should be out there for fans to look through and consider.
Still, as I said previously, I think a club is more likely to fall over than relocate.
We have seen this happen with the Auckland Warriors who went bust and were reborn as the New Zealand Warriors in one off season. Basically the old club/company is allowed to die and a new one is started.
In the Warriors case, they didn’t need to consider relocation, but if something similar happened to a Sydney club, you have to wonder how a situation like that would work out.
I think if we did see a Sydney club go bust, I don’t know there would be that same drive to set up a new company with the same name, logo and colours. I think it would be almost impossible to draw sponsors, to set up links with the community and the already small fan base would lose people who considered their old club to have died. On top of that, try drawing new fans to a club that just keeled over.
My personal opinion is that you would see a Sydney club fold, the NRL would take that free’d up licence and immediately hand it over the to second Brisbane team NRL bid consortium. The NRL would need to provide broadcasters with a 16 team competition, it couldn’t afford to have one less game per week on TV.
So I would ask this question of any struggling Sydney club, including my own….
Do you want your team to fold, the licence taken over and handed over to a Brisbane team to start from scratch? Or, would you rather see your club not fold, live on in Brisbane, and still play some home games in their traditional stadium.
Its a horrible choice and it is one I hope no fans have to make any time soon. As a Panthers fan, I’d want my club to live on no matter what. All of these scenario’s though are something that every fan of a struggling club should think about.
This argument isn’t about your club vs my club. It is about making sure ALL of OUR clubs survives no matter what.