Survival fears may lead the Suns to Brisbane

“Keep throwing all the shit you like at us, I’m telling you we’re going to survive, we‘re going to be a success and we’re going to be a long, long term proud part of the AFL body of people. – Suns Chairman Tony Cochrane

In the one of the most extraordinary radio interviews in recent memory, Suns Chairman Tony Cochrane declared – emphatically – that the Gold Coast Football Club will survive the financial crisis threatening their very existence.

An 85-point mauling at the hands of Geelong led by of their former sole combatant, Gary Ablett and a 108-point embarrassing loss to their green grass expansion rival, Greater Western Sydney has amplified the situation on the Gold Coast. Rock bottom has been and gone for the Suns, Armageddon has arrived at Carrara. If the Suns were a nuclear power plant, the sirens would be deafening. “Evacuate! Evacuate!” would be the message. Gary Ablett knew it, Jaeger O’Meara knew it. Dion Prestia knew it. Charlie Dixon knew it. Tom Lynch knows it. She’s ‘bout to blow.

To the chagrin of Tony Cochrane’s 360-degree tirade that did not miss the Victorian media nor the AFL for “chronic errors” in the club’s establishment, many have speculated regarding the Gold Coast Suns long-term future in the AFL in recent weeks – including this author on this very website. However, the most pressing problem the Suns face is not their long-term future, but the short-term which is far from a fatal accompli.

Gold Coast have by far the worst stadium deal in Australian sport (that was negotiated by the AFL and not the Suns) that sees them lose approximately $200,000 per home game at Carrara, equating to $2.2 million per season in a normal, non-Commonwealth Games season. While, survival instincts took over the combative Cochrane this recent interview on SEN who was steadfast the Suns will survive, he was far less certain when he recently conceded to the Courier Mail that the football club will collapse unless the government drastically reduces the “exorbitant” stadium fees placed upon the club, “these (stadium) costs are a massive burden to our club which are not sustainable.”

The football club has continued deteriorating on the field in recent weeks with Stuart Dew’s charges seemingly sapped of all hope and spirit after an opening half of the season resembling a national (and international) tour more than a football season with trips to far North Queensland, Ballarat, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, a couple of trips to Perth and Brisbane (for home games) and a reluctant second trip to Shanghai. To put this into perspective, the reigning premiers have only left Melbourne’s CBD three times this season, twice for a fifty-minute flight to Adelaide and the other for an audacious trip to Perth, which all resulted in loses, yet sit second on the ladder.

The worst draw in footy history has obviously negatively influenced the players because after a competent start under Dew, it has all fallen apart. However, while on field has gone from disaster to disaster, the Suns may have reached their breakthrough with the club being offered a way out of their current deal with Carrara that is currently crippling the club and leaving officials in fear it will fold and be replaced with a Tasmanian team. A new stadium deal with Carrara is currently being negotiated but if the parties cannot successfully come to an agreement that sees stadium fees reduced significantly, where does that leave the club surviving on AFL House life-support?

A very real option in play for the Suns is to abandon Carrara altogether in what would be a stunning development in the short history of this football club. The club has already considered moving home games to Southport, the home ground of their NEAFL team, if changes are not made to the current stadium deal. However, playing games at Southport is surely out of the question as far as the AFL is concerned with the ground being far from an AFL standard venue, boasting a capacity of only 8,000. Therefore, if the Suns are forced to leave Carrara to avoid the inevitable collapse their current deal promises, the only option before them is the home ground of their cross-town rivals, the Brisbane Lions, the Gabba. This means Gold Coast will play their home games in Brisbane and not Gold Coast, if the dire situation of leaving Carrara is forced upon them, in what would be a disastrous measure.

We had a brief glimpse into this hell for Gold Coast – and the game as a whole – in Round 8, when a pitiful 6,060 people turned up to watch their Suns play the Demons at the venue. Make no mistake if the Suns abandon the Gold Coast, the Gold Coast will abandon them. The situation would be bear a striking resemblance to the one the Brisbane Bears found themselves in when they were forced to play games at Carrara in their formative years of existence, that occurred briefly before their final years. A move to Brisbane would kill the only identity Gold Coast have, which is the Gold Coast. Their name, nickname, colours and mascot are all wrapped around the sprawling collection of communities’ culture, and if it removes itself from those communities, they become a team without a home – a team without an identity. Moreover, the move would also be consequential for the Brisbane Lions, who have suffered greatly since the introduction of a second AFL team to the Queensland market. The lowly Lions have found out the hard way that Queensland, let alone Brisbane, is not big enough for two teams in the state’s ‘other’ sport.

That is why the AFL must, repeat, must, ensure that a fair deal is delivered for the Gold Coast at the Gold Coast or the Suns will go the way of the Bears and football will be all the weaker for it. As Tony Cochrane has pointed out, the AFL are more than happy to accept the millions of dollars the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney have delivered to the game via an increased broadcast deal courtesy of the inclusion of a ninth game to football’s weekly schedule. This means they need to stand up for their club.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Thus, the Suns do not need the priority pick they are requesting, nor do they need more draft concessions. What they do need is money. We cannot have a situation where an AFL club is becoming bankrupt by its home ground and we cannot have a situation where an AFL club has never been able to afford to utilise it's full salary cap. The AFL must invest MORE money in the Suns no matter the ridiculous cost because we cannot have them falling by the wayside. 

If they can’t save themselves, we must save them.

 

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