Sharks fight for financial survival - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sharks fight for financial survival

By Steve Jancetic 18/05/2009 06:53:36 PM Comments (0)

Cronulla boss Tony Zappia says the embattled NRL club has 18 months to turn around their dire financial plight before the possibility of extinction becomes reality.

Zappia's startling time frame came on the back of a crisis meeting with major sponsor LG Electronics in Sydney on Monday, the Sharks instigating talks due to negative publicity generated by the 2002 Christchurch group sex scandal.

Cronulla's financial woes - believed to include a debt in excess of $12 million - worsened late last week when two sponsors pulled support worth almost $150,000 a year in response to last week's television program describing the antics of Sharks players in New Zealand.

Asked how long the club could keep its doors open Zappia said: "If nothing changes immediately, at least 18 months.

"But a lot of things can change in that period of time."

The dire predicament has done little to curb Cronulla's activity in the free agent market.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that the Sharks were favourites to snare in-form St George Illawarra prop Justin Poore on a three-year $1 million contract, the deal laden with guarantees should the club fold.

Zappia said they intended to use all of the $4.1 million salary cap in 2010 and, with a host of big names including prop Ben Ross and fullback Brett Kearney coming off contract in 2009, they should have plenty of room to manoeuvre.

"We'll certainly ensure that we're in a position to be recruiting players," Zappia said.

"You need (to attract top line talent) not only to get people coming through the gates but also to attract corporate markets.

"To underspend $300,000 on the salary cap might actually affect you being able to acquire half a million dollars in sponsorship."

Cronulla's money problems appear to have done little to scare off potential signings, player managers saying on Monday they would continue spruiking the Sharks as a desirable new home.

"It's pretty much business as usual," agent Steve Gillis said.

"Obviously there's plenty of talk and speculation ... but they're definitely talking to players and agents are definitely talking to them.

"They present well, Ricky's (coach Ricky Stuart) obviously an excellent coach and Tony's a fairly good operator - they give it a good sell and it's a great area.

"The only question is are they going to be around.

"There's some storm clouds about but whether they clear or it buckets down, we don't know yet."

Zappia said he instigated the meeting with LG Electronics after they expressed reservations over their commitment to the club in the wake of the group sex drama.

The major sponsor's $1 million a year deal finishes up at the end of 2009.

Asked what impact the loss of two minor sponsors last week had on the club's predicament, Zappia said: "It doesn't help but we just need to knuckle down and keep working away and ensuring that we retain the ones that we've got and obviously continue to get some new corporates along the way."

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