Interview with the Gold Coast
Dolphins

With the Partnership Executive Committee meeting this month, the decision on the 16th NRL team is looming.

It's understood that NRL Chief Executive David Gallop has revealed that the decision whether to expand the NRL competition may not be reached at the August 16 meeting. Nevertheless, for the three contenders, from Wellington, Central Coast and the Gold Coast, it's full steam ahead.

Leagueunlimited's Deborah Lang caught up with Ian Buchannan and Michael Searle from the Gold Coast bid team and discussed a wide range of issues, including finances, infrastructure as well as team and club support:

The bid team Q. Who is on the bid team? What will be the ownership structure should the bid be successful? A. Please see website for who is on bid team. The ownership structure will be made up of 3 private investors with the fourth share being held by the Gold Coast Bid Team.

Q. How long has the current bid team been in action? A. To varying degrees but the inaugural meeting was on the 15th March 2000 but essentially since the Chargers were disbanded by the ARL back in 1999.

Q. What stands the Gold Coast bid apart from the other areas bidding for a franchise, especially the Central Coast? And why will The Gold Coast Dolphins be successful when previous clubs have not been successful? A. To say that previous clubs on the Gold Coast were unsuccessful is not true. The club was part of the armistice that took place between News and the ARL. They were sacrificed as an entity to effect peace in the sport.

The Chargers were a success. In only their third season they made the playoffs albeit in a reduced competition and when they were taken out of the competition they paid all of their players for a further season in which they did not compete and still had $2.2million dollars in the bank. To say they were unsuccessful is inaccurate and given they were the only team to make a profit during the 1997 & 1998 Seasons this puts in perspective the strength of our ability to run an efficient operation using a similar model.

The financials Q. Describe in basic terms the structure of the Gold Coast bid's financial backing. Who are the major sponsors? A. We have revealed the major backers of the team to the NRL and this will be published when we get the licence. As far as sponsorship goes we have had a high level of interest in sponsorship from major corporations through to business partners and corporate box inquiries. We will have some announcements soon about sponsors that will be signing up when we get the licence. From a business and community point of view these companies can see the benefit of being a part of our campaign to gain the licence as well as when we hopefully get the green light from the NRL. Q. Will you be seeking salary cap exemptions from the NRL within the first year of operation to attract high quality players to ensure the clubs long term viability? A. No, we are firmly committed to having a level playing field as far as the salary cap goes and feel that the benefits our City offers players with reduced costs of living and the high standard of living the players families will be entitled to will be reflected in the player quality. The salary cap now has teeth and player movement is more prevalent under a strictly policed cap which has been evidenced this year. Next year it will be more prevalent.

Q. Will the NRL make any concessions for a new team in terms of the salary cap, external sponsorships etc? A. No and nor should they.

Q. Have you determined who your official merchandise supplier will be e.g Classic, ISC, Nike, Puma etc? A. Currently we have used Classic to produce our inaugural run of jumpers but there is strong interest in this role and we will finalise this upon receiving the license. I am uncomfortable disclosing the particulars of any bidders at this stage but suffice to say the quality design of the jumper, its colours and the regions population will make it a highly sought after relationship and this is reflected in the interest to date. The stadium Q. What sort of upgrades are planned or envisaged for Carrara? Are there plans for ground expansion at either end and / or onto the existing field oval? A. We have obtained informal commitments to gain funding for the redevelopment of Gold Coast Stadium which will fundamentally incorporate the squaring off of the western grandstand with the main oval. The grandstands and corporate facilities will be a big part of this ensuring that the fans get the best view possible of the game in comfortable surroundings.

Q. What do you think will be the capacity of a revamped Gold Coast Stadium? A. We expect that the refurbishment won?t substantially increase the capacity but rather improved the viewing for more fans under cover. The stadium being squared up will still see it maintain its capacity of about 22,000 fans. Q. What is the estimated cost of the stadium redevelopment? A. $44 million has been sought from Local, State and Federal Government. When you consider that the Central Coast facility was built for about $30 Million for an entire stadium, spending $44 Million on a Western Stand upgrade is very exciting and indicative of the quality of the facility when complete.

Q. When do you think these upgrades will be in place? A. It depends on when we get the licence and what lead time we have before our first season. The redevelopment may have to be done in stages to work around being able to facilitate home games at Gold Coast Stadium. It would be ideal to have the redevelopment complete by the start of season 2007 but it depends on a number of factors out of our control.

Q. Would big matches have to be played at Lang Park? A. That depends. Currently we have only identified the match that we could consider playing at Suncorp Stadium, would be the Broncos V Dolphins home clash. This game traditionally draws a huge crowd in excess of what Gold Coast Stadium could accommodate. We have decided we don?t want to lock any fans out of that game as it would disappoint so many people but dependant on the commercial arrangement that would come with the game and the willingness of the Stadium Manager to cater for the game as well. Given the rights we have at the Gold Coast it will be tough to convince us to give up so many income bearing rights on a variable crowd.

Infrastructure Q. What sort of backing are you expecting from the state government and Gold Coast council? A. As far as the stadium goes - Gold Coast City Council has already committed $6million in funding to the redevelopment of Gold Coast Stadium hinged on the 16th licence being granted to the Gold Coast. We have received further assurances from the State and Federal Governments that they would look upon the redevelopment of the stadium favourably should we get the licence.

Q. One of the criticisms of Carrara has been access. Are you aware of any plans or proposals to widen the Broadbeach-Nerang Road? A. Yes, the road is now being expanded to four lanes in and out of the Nerang- Broadbeach road which will give great access and egress West and East of the facility. The Ross Street bridge is also been configured for 4 lanes so a Northern and Southern Option will also be improved. Generally the facility will be a lot quicker and with the introduction of a transit pick up area at the front of the stadium, public transport will also be improved and moving fans away from the stadium will be far easier.

Q. Regarding rail transport. For many, Nerang railway station is within walking distance. Are you aware of any plans for bus shuttle services and has there been any hints of a committed bus lane to cater for this connection? Would the Rail Authority work with Carrara on match days/nights? A. These are all worthy points for discussion once we get the licence. We intend to leave no stone unturned when it comes making the game accessible to the people and if that means coordinating bus shuttles in conjunction with Queensland Rail then we?ll definitely look at that. The team, players and club support Q. How did the Gold Coast Dolphins name come about and did you consider there may be some confusion with the Dolphins at Redcliffe? A. Please see website

Q. Do you have any players in mind for the first grade team? A. We have given an undertaking to the NRL that we will abide by the anti tampering rules despite the fact that we have no legal obligation to do so. This was submitted in good faith and we will abide by our pledge not to disrupt the other clubs preparations into the semi finals. In saying that most managers are fully aware of the speculation of a 16th team and are really obtaining a premium on sign on fees at the moment based on this possibility. We believe we will be very selective in our recruitment and will be targeting 5 marquee players and supported with enthusiastic young players keen to get the chance to play regular first grade.

Q. Are the jerseys on sale yet? A. Yes they are through selected sporting retailers ? and they are selling like hotcakes.

Q. Regarding the junior base, where are you planning on getting your players from? A. Our catchment area will be from Ballina to Beenleigh and west to Ipswich. We see this area as one of the richest in junior talent in the country with over 8,500 players in the region. We have strategically planned that it will take about 3 -4 years for our elite program to start paying dividends in the form of Gold Coast based kids coming through. Most NRL clubs tie kids up very young now so we will have to penetrate that market first and then develop and coach them into our Top 30 squad.

Q. What part will the Burleigh Bears and the XXXX Cup play in Gold Coast bid? Are there any feeder clubs in the pipeline? A. We have met with the QRL and discussed our feeder club arrangements and the most likely paths for our senior players is the State League at the Burleigh Bears Club. We are however assembling a Northern and Southern Conference of our elite junior players who will be streamed into the Mixwell Cup in Brisbane. The Northern Conference will see all under 19 eleite players go to Burleigh and all Northern NSW Players go to the Tweed Heads Seagulls who in future have indicated a willingness to compete in this comp if this arrangement is formalised.

Q. How many tiers are being proposed? eg, NRL, Premier League, XXXX Cup? A. NRL focus with our surplus players from the Top 30, playing in State League and a further two sides competing in the under 19 Brisbane Competition from Burleigh & Seagulls.

Q. Where will the Leagues Club be located? How long will it take to get this in place? A. We have a long term plan for a league club but we can sustain profitability without one indefinitely. We plan to make the club very accessible to the fans and are currently investigating a number of options.

Q. What sort of support are you receiving from the schools, sponsors and the business community? A. We have been receiving amazing support from all areas of the community. From the record crowds that are attending our Trial matches each year through to the Businesses who help us sell out our corporate hospitality suites at the games. Then there?s the thousands of people who visit our website and send messages of support to us ? the groundswell of Gold Coast Dolphins Fans is getting bigger by the day

Q. Since the talk of possible NRL admission, have junior league registrations increased at all? A. They have increased by over 25% this year alone and that figure is expected to continue to rise over time.

For more information: Gold Coast Dolphins website: www.goldcoastdolphins.com.au

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