Off the Wall

The daily saga that is the Gold Coast Titans is quite tragic. It is a bad look for the game, and for the NRL.

I need to declare that I know the CEO, Michael Searle, though I have not spoken to him for some time.

The Titans, under its current structure, would seem to be on the brink of collapse. The blame is already being sheeted home to Michael Searle. But does he deserve to lump it all alone?

In my view the NRL has serious questions to answer itself.

And it is not just about the Titans. I have long contended, through this column, that the NRL needs to be far more pro-active in addressing what are all to obvious financial problems that have faced a number of clubs for several years.

Anyone looking at the "real" attendances at the home games of a number of clubs - including the Titans - would have pushed the alarm button long before now. When I see the Titans home game crowds shown on the TV screen during matches I just shake my head. And fans who have been at games tell me they do the same!

The NRL must demand transparency when it comes to "official attendance" numbers.

Some of the numbers produced for games at the Olympic Stadium defy credibility! In the "bad old days" it was widely known that the game's then Chief Executive would be shown the attendance at a major venue - and he was known to add up to 10,000 to it before releasing it!

What the Titans saga confirms to me is that private ownership of NRL clubs must be rigorously monitored by by the NRL. If anyone thinks that the Titans are alone in being under real financial pressure they are fooling no one but themselves.

Far too many clubs are being far too reliant on the so called "windfall" from the next television rights deal. Even if the deal is as generous as they are hoping, there won't be an immediate windfall.
The fee will be paid over the five year period of the agreement.

Clubs can only expect a progressive increase in the NRL annual payment. If they think they are in for millions up front they can surely forget it. What the new ARL Commission needs to do is to demand that every club - not just the Titans - be upfront about their financial state.

And then put it on the website so we can all be better informed!