NRL Side Cronulla Sharks In Dire Straits Financially
National Rugby League side Cronulla Sharks CEO Barry Russell played down rumors of the Sharks’ "imminent demise" but the Australian Rugby League Commission is "ready to delve deeper into the club’s finances amid concerns that an already dire situation is worse than many feared," according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. Russell on Wednesday confirmed the club cut 10 staff members this week, a measure designed to ensure it has a "viable future" before it digs a hole "too deep to clamber out of." It prompted renewed speculation over the club’s future -- rumors have the Sharks "knocking on death’s door" as the club deals with multimillion-dollar losses, slow returns from the property development surrounding its home ground and sponsorship voids. The club lost nearly A$4M in '17 and is "expected to lose a similar amount this year." The Sharks are also the subject of an ongoing salary cap investigation and are "yet to secure a major sponsor for the upcoming season" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/29). In Sydney, Phil Rothfield reported Cronulla will be forced to wear a '70s-style jersey next year with no front, sleeve or back-of-jersey sponsors "committed to the embattled club." Opal Solar (front), Bang & Olufsen (back) and Martec (sleeve) all quit, leaving a A$2M ($1.5M) shortfall in commercial revenue. Making the club's position "even more precarious" is the NRL’s "refusal to bail out struggling clubs with financial assistance" as it has in recent years with St. George-Illawarra and the Wests Tigers. Under the game’s new A$13M ($9.5M)-a-year funding agreements, the next club to go broke "either folds or is forced to relocate." NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is monitoring the Sharks’ position closely but refused to comment on the sackings of 10 employees. The Sharks have been unable to offer coach Shane Flanagan a contract extension because of the financial crisis (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/29).