It wouldn’t take much for the situation at the Cronulla Sharks to go south very quickly.
If the Sharks have to deal with players being suspended, a fine, and the aftermath of what would be a very difficult period for the club, the Sharks would need financial support from the NRL to survive.
Many within the game feel that if it gets to that point, the NRL will only offer financial support on one condition. That the Sharks relocate from Cronulla to a new area.
Lets not argue over the Cronulla Sharks guilt or innocence. For now, lets just look at the scenario that the Sharks are forced to move to survive….
I personally believe the best move for the Cronulla Sharks would be to establish themselves in Brisbane. There they could play out of Suncorp Stadium, they could draw on a massive corporate base that even the Brisbane Broncos have said they can not service on their own, they don’t have to worry about setting up in a virgin Rugby League market, and on top of all of that, they would get a lot more coverage on free to air television because Channel 9 is desperate for more Brisbane based NRL content.
It seems like the easiest move to me. One the club could make in the course of an off season.
The feeling among most people though is that any relocation of the Sharks would send them to Perth.
Perth has a fantastic stadium that is ready for an NRL club to move into. It has a big corporate base of its own and a booming economy. It has a very strong junior league that has already produced NRL players. It is an important city to help fill out the NRL’s much needed national footprint. Once the NRL has a team in Perth, all that is left is Adelaide, and from there the game can look at some really exciting expansion opportunities.
I can understand why Sharks fans don’t want to see their team move. I wouldn’t want to see my own team move. If it was a choice between dying or moving though, I’ll help the Penrith Panthers load up the moving van!
Any move the Sharks made would need a whole game approach taken to it. You wouldn’t want to simply abandon Cronulla or current Sharks supporter base.
What if the Sharks were able to relocate to Perth but still play up to 10 NRL games every year at Shark Park?
Surely it wouldn’t take too much work from the NRL to organise to have the Sharks Sydney based away games all played at Shark Park rather than at the home stadiums of Sydney based NRL clubs. Yes it would have an effect on the bottom line of those Sydney clubs who would miss out on gate takings for that game, but that could be made up by the NRL in some capacity.
If the Sharks are still playing games at Shark Park would relocating the club be that big of a deal? It would basically result in the Sharks playing the vast majority of their games at Perth or Cronulla.
I don’t want to see any clubs being forced to relocate. As fans though we have to accept the reality Sydney based clubs are facing. Sydney is a crowded sporting marking and a number of Sydney based clubs are struggling on and off the field.
Some clubs are just poorly run while others have a safety net on some type that secures their future. For the Sharks, they have been looking at their property development to secure their long term financial future, and that is fine. The problem is that right now, the Sharks don’t have any money. They don’t expect to see any real returns on their property development for a number of years.
You can argue that it would be stupid to move the club based on their current financial issues if they will have a more secure future long term. You need to look at the big picture though.
The NRL needs a national competition. It needs less clubs in Sydney. It can’t prop up the Sharks for a number of years until their property development starts earning money for them. The game can not continue to invest more money in a club that’s crowds haven’t been great for a while and that has a history of struggling financially. One that has no room at all to grow where they are currently based.
This is how the bean counters at the NRL will be looking at this situation. They don’t have the emotional connection fans have towards the Sharks. All they will see is an NRL licence, the financial return theu get on that licence, and the financial return they could get on that licence if they were to base the club in a different area.
NRL CEO David Smith was not brought in to make football decisions. He was brought in to make purely financial decisions. He was brought in to drive the business side of Rugby League.
If things go bad for the Cronulla Sharks and they go cap in hand to the NRL, don’t be surprised if David Smith makes a decision based on the overall business that is Rugby League. If that happens Cronulla might still host NRL games, but it would likely be the Perth Sharks that will be running out of the change rooms to greet long suffering Sharks supporters.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com