Q&A: Titans CEO Graham Annesley
They have a new coach, are in the market for a marquee player, are weighing up where their future training base will be and are holding out for the right price for their major sponsorship properties; there's a lot on the plate of Titans CEO Graham Annesley.
Q. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the club's future in recent weeks; does winning football games solve everything?
A. There's no doubt that winning helps, but since I arrived here my attitude has been that we've got to have a sustainable club, regardless of what happens on the field. The good years on the field should be bonuses. We're confident that we'll have a more consistent year this year but can we bank on that happening? No, we can't. Our health will improve much more rapidly if we have a good season than it will if we have a poor season.
What is the key to ensuring the long-term viability of an NRL team on the Gold Coast?
It's got to be community and I understand when I came here [in September 2013] the club had suffered some reputational damage over the last few years. We have lost some community support but with the governance we have in place now, with independent people on the board, we're trying to demonstrate to the community that the club has got its act together and is heading in the right direction. People are starting to come to us now asking how they can help but we've got a long way to go.
Given the poor finish to last season and the off-field distractions, how is membership tracking for 2015?
Compared to the same time last year we're actually tracking ahead and what that says to me is that there is hope. People want to see the team do well, we have a new coach, some new players and there is an injection of enthusiasm. There's a sense right through the fan base and membership base that this year should be better. We need to repay some faith to our fans and try and put some results on the board, particularly at home.
The Titans are the fourth incarnation of a first grade team on the Gold Coast; why has it failed in the past and why will this club be different?
I was with the NRL when the Chargers were shut down in 1998 and the irony of that is that they were a victim of a political outcome. When the Super League war ended there was initially a 20-team competition and there was an agreement put in place to reduce the number of teams in the competition, and that's when we saw the Perth Reds disappear, the Adelaide Rams disappear and the Chargers disappear. My understanding is that the Chargers at the time were financially doing very well and had a substantial amount of money in the bank. So I don't think it's fair to say that every attempt to have a rugby league team on the Gold Coast has failed purely because of lack of support. The Titans in its early days had tremendous support and that support is still there, it's just latent at the moment. We're trying to reawaken them and give them some confidence that the club has a bright future, because I've got no doubt it does. This is the sixth-largest city in the country in rugby league heartland; if it's not going to work here where the hell is it going to work?
How will this club sit financially in 12 months' time?
This club is not far off sustainability once we can sell our existing sponsorship properties. We've cut a lot of costs out of the business. Our revenues did drop off as a result of what happened a few years ago and we've got to rebuild those. It's a tough sponsorship market, there are other major events that have struggled for sponsorship, but I'm confident we'll get the right partners and we'll get them at the right price because having a fire sale just to get some logos on jerseys is not what it's about.
Have you knocked back approaches from potential sponsors?
Absolutely. To be perfectly frank, I could have sold the naming rights two months ago but I wasn't prepared to for the price that was on offer. If you do that you're consigning yourself to years of financial hardship because it devalues your other sponsorship properties and also those for other NRL teams.
Much conjecture as to the future home of the Titans recently, will it be a purpose-built facility at Coomera or a shared arrangement with Parkwood International Golf Course?
I hope to have that resolved in the next few weeks; both are still on the table. Despite all the constant media speculation and some organisations saying the deal is done, no deal is done yet because we haven't put pen to paper.
How would the facilities at Parkwood compare to what is proposed at Coomera?
Whether we're at Parkwood or Coomera, our outcome will be the same in that we will have a dedicated admin area, dedicated player facilities including changerooms, lap pools, hot and cold baths, gymnasiums and football fields available for training. So the outcome in both cases will be of the same benefit, albeit a different mix in style but they'll both cater for our long-term needs.
Is there any progress in making the accessibility of Cbus Super Stadium more convenient to fans wishing to attend games?
We've got one of the best stadiums in the game but there are some issues around transport and access which even Stadiums Queensland has acknowledged in their annual report. We're working through some of those issues with them to see if we can't make it easier for people to get to games. At the moment it's difficult to get a vehicle anywhere near the place; yes, cost of public transport is included in the ticket but the Gold Coast is very much a driving culture and telling people they have to take public transport is a massive turn-off for some people.
There is plenty of space around the stadium so why isn't a dedicated car park not a simple solution?
The land around the stadium is owned by a private corporation and they're trying to sell it commercially so the solutions are not simple and why we don't have one at the moment. But we have to somehow make it more accessible for people. We've got this fantastic stadium, we want people to come but then we make it as hard as possible for them to get there.
How does the future look for the Titans on the Gold Coast?
I think it's very rosy. We've still got some hurdles to overcome, we're not out of the woods just yet, that's for sure, but I came here because I thought this club had a great future and I still believe that it does. Sometimes I get frustrated that we can't make more progress more quickly but I've got no doubt the NRL's committed to a team on the Gold Coast. They've been tremendously supportive of us, as have Gold Coast City Council, TSS (The Southport School) and any number of organisations who are trying to help us to make sure that we are successful. We've got a long way to go, it's a long road.
How crucial is it to land a marquee player for the 2016 season?
It's very important. Any marquee player – and there's not many of them in the game – would have an enormous impact on any club. It would give everyone hope that things are on the improve, it would open up additional sponsorship opportunities, it would attract greater membership enquiry, it would hopefully attract more corporate dollars to the club. All of that would generate revenue so we are not only in a position where the club can cover its own costs but more importantly turn a profit so we can reinvest in the players and the team and give them a better chance of success.