Sharks drowning amid sea of debt - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sharks drowning amid sea of debt

By Todd Balym and Steve Jancetic 21/05/2009 10:26:47 PM Comments (0)

The Cronulla Sharks are an endangered species with the club facing financial ruin and the Central Coast Bears prepared to step into the NRL by 2010.

Already 18 months from extinction, the Sharks plunged further into crisis on Thursday with major sponsor LG Electronics pulling their $700,000 support from next year, casting major doubts on Cronulla's ability to continue in 2010.

Cronulla have now lost almost $1 million of sponsorship and also have an existing $9 million debt, prompting NRL chief executive David Gallop to call for urgent talks about how to save the club.

Gallop said he could not guarantee Cronulla would be involved in the 2010 season, but knows the NRL may have to help financially as the code is contracted to provide eight games per week for broadcasters.

"I cannot guarantee anything at this point," said Gallop when asked if Cronulla would be playing in 2010.

"Certainly part of our broadcast deal is that we provide eight games a week and that will be something we take into account as we go forward looking at their financial position.

"Obviously they've got some big issues ahead of them. We need to get in and talk to them about the strategies to solve their problems.

"I've said for some time we don't have a blank cheque for any club. But certainly we will do what we can to look at their financial situation to see if there is a way through it."

Bears bid committee chairman, former North Sydney great Greg Florimo, said his consortium preferred a start in an expanded NRL in 2013, but could be ready to go next season if the opportunity presented itself.

"I've got to take the position that yes, we'd make ourselves ready," Florimo said.

"It's not our preferred option but going on the momentum and the rate at which this thing has built over the last six months, it wouldn't surprise me that we could get on the field in another six months."

Gallop said "we are not at that stage yet" of calling upon the Bears to replace the Sharks, the NRL boss hoping Cronulla can still be saved and find a new major sponsor for 2010.

"I would certainly hope that down the track someone else will seek to have an association with them," Gallop said.

"Many of their sponsors have stuck by them, some haven't. That is an inevitable consequence of some of the things that have gone on."

LG's marketing director David Brand said the recent controversies involving the club were behind the decision not to renew their long-running deal with Cronulla.

"We no longer see the benefits of an ongoing sponsorship given the evolution of our brand ... the recent controversies around the NRL, and the Sharks in particular, were certainly a significant element in our decision ...," said Brand in a statement.

Sharks CEO Tony Zappia admitted earlier this week the club would only survive another 18 months unless their financial situation improved.

It's a situation that has become more dire with LG's withdrawal but Cronulla did take a step towards the future Thursday by announcing a new sponsorship agreement with car park management company InterPark for the rest of the 2009 NRL season.

The value of the deal was not disclosed but both Cronulla and InterPark hope the partnership can grow significantly in the future.

"We hope it will lead to a long and fruitful partnership between us," said Sharks chairman Barry Pierce.

InterPark managing director Peter Stewart said he believed Cronulla was a club with "integrity" who had been "proactive" in dealing with player behaviour despite the horrendous headlines of 2009 which include the positive test to performance enhancing drugs for new recruit Reni Maitua.

"We look forward to developing a relationship with the club which will lead to much larger sponsorships in the years ahead," Stewart said.

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