Shoestring Titans shut down talk of collapse
GOLD Coast boss Steve Mitchell is adamant the Titans won't crumble again after club owner Darryl Kelly admitted he was unsure what impact the coronavirus crisis would have on the NRL franchise's finances.
The Titans are one of 16 NRL clubs facing uncertain futures as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts sport around the world.
The Titans will play their first home game of the season against Parramatta at an empty Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
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The club has brokered a cheaper hiring agreement with Stadiums Queensland to play at the Robina venue given there will be no fans in attendance, and the NRL has already issued a $425,000 emergency package to all clubs.
But if the NRL competition is suspended at some point in the season it could have dire consequences for clubs and the game.
The Titans essentially folded in 2015 on the back of crippling debts and were taken over by the NRL for close to three years, before being purchased by locals Darryl and Jo Kelly and Rebecca and Brett Frizelle.
Kelly lost more than $5 million in his initial investment in the Titans and has outlaid a significant amount again, as well as leading the development of a leagues club to bankroll the NRL operations.
When asked what impact the corona crisis would have on the Titans, Kelly said: "Unsure at this stage. We're still working through the numbers.
"You've got to work through all the scenarios and that's not a five-minute job."
The Titans operate on a shoestring budget compared to NRL heavyweights like the Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Like most NRL clubs, the Titans run at a loss and are propped up by their owners, instead of other revenue streams like wealthy leagues clubs.
The Titans' leagues club development on the northern Gold Coast is at least a year away from completion.
When pressed on whether the Titans could survive the current economic climate, chief executive Mitchell said: "At the moment, in our current position, we'll get through, but we're going to need support. We're still working through that with the NRL.
"I would think the club's going to be here - it's not going anywhere. Like all the clubs we've got some obstacles we're going to have to move through. The whole game is in the same position.
"Like the rest of the world, we're going to go through a few months of uncertainty.
"This is a three or four-month period where we need to really manage well, live within our means and get through so we can enjoy the rest of the footy season.
"We're really fortunate that we've got a really flexible team. The business isn't as big as the Broncos, so the ability to move and flex is pretty good.
"We've got very committed owners in Darryl, Jo, Rebecca and Brett. They've been fantastic and we're in constant consultation with them."
The Titans were already suffering from a drop in membership on the back of last year's wooden spoon season and will now lose further crowd revenue.
The NRL has begun lobbying government for financial support and Mitchell said that was critical to the game's survival.
"Government (support) is vital. Sport plays such a significant role in the make-up of the Australian fabric and society, it's important government doesn't lose sight of that," he said.
"Particularly in times of crises, people gravitate to their sporting codes and clubs for some respite.
"I remember when the Cowboys won the grand final in 2015 … what that did locally for morale was extraordinary.
"We've got a fair way to go as a country to get through this pandemic. To be able to hold on to sport is vitally important to the wellbeing of people in general."
The Titans will face the Eels on Sunday without star fullback AJ Brimson (back), but forward Moeaki Fotuaika is expected to play his first game of the season.
The Titans are slated to host the Broncos in Round 3 in what is traditionally one of the club's biggest games of the season, but that fixture remains up in the air.