Gold Coast Relocation Looking Very

The National Rugby League would welcome a Sydney club relocating to a region such as the Gold Coast.

NRL chief executive David Gallop reiterated his stance that the league was not looking to expand the 15-team competition in the near future.

But he told a talkfest on `NRL on Fox' he would be happy to accommodate one of the nine Sydney region teams moving elsewhere.

"We certainly wouldn't force it upon anybody but if a Sydney club came to us and said `look we wouldn't mind moving to the Gold Coast' then we'd certainly look seriously at it because Sydney's a tough market," said Gallop.

"It's a tough market because it's such a vibrant city for entertainment.

"There's a lot of things to do on a Sunday afternoon and rugby league is one of the things that's in there trying to get people's leisure time."

The Gold Coast, Wellington and Gosford are cities pushing for an NRL franchise when the licences for the 15 current clubs expire at the end of 2005.

Gallop said the NRL would avoid any radical decisions involving the admission criteria as was the case in 1999 when South Sydney was cut from the competition.

Penrith chief executive Shane Richardson, on the same program, said it would be madness to discuss cutting any existing club to make room for a new franchise.

"I think the major criteria is financial viability - that we can pay the players," he said.

"The 15 clubs that have survived what has really been in some cases a holocaust, they deserve to have the right to extend those contracts if they're financially viable."

Although a supporter of expansion, Richardson believes the long-term viability of clubs such as Melbourne and North Queensland should be secured beforehand.

Gallop pointed out the major obstacle for expansion was that any extra club would have to be allocated a $2.5 million annual grant to match the other clubs.

"That's $2.5 million that's not being put into the bottom end of the game...and that money isn't necessarily available for junior development," said Gallop.

"It's a balance and you have to be careful you don't upset that balance at the moment."

Canberra captain Simon Woolford believed there was room for another club in the Sunshine State to add to the Cowboys and Brisbane.

"If you look at a team like Brisbane they seem to have a never-ending supply of junior talent coming through so I think down the track if we're going to have an extra club, Queensland's the place," said the Raiders hooker.