NRL vows to win back Gold Coast trust
Let the healing begin.
That was the message from NRL CEO Dave Smith on Tuesday as the NRL stepped in to take control of the Gold Coast Titans after the club was placed into voluntary administration by the board.
Titans directors conceded that the club could no longer meet its financial obligations – including staff and player salaries – resulting in the existing ownership structure being dissolved and taken over by the game's governing body.
Former major shareholder Darryl Kelly will remain on the Titans board along with chairwoman Rebecca Frizelle, CEO Graham Annesley and chairman of the Gold Coast Tourism Board Paul Donovan, but the NRL is now the sole owner of the club.
The takeover has resulted in the removal of Michael Searle from any association with the Titans, having previously had a stake of 39.1 per cent of the club along with positions in the football department and on the board.
Searle was the driving force behind the admission of the Titans into the NRL in 2007 but his legacy to the club will forever be clouded by the ambitious yet ultimately disastrous Centre of Excellence facility in Robina.
Failure to pay creditors for works undertaken on the Centre of Excellence left a bitter taste amongst sub-contractors throughout the Gold Coast construction industry and Smith said repaying any debts will be a critical step in winning back the trust of the community.
"We will work with the administrators to make sure that we resolve the existing position," Smith told a large media contingent on Tuesday.
"We're very aware that in the community there have been problems in the past with credit and other things in the community and the NRL will do the right thing by the creditors as we work through the process with the administrators.
"We've stepped in because there were a series of issues that the club needs support for and they will get that support and the board will lead us through that.
"We will do the right thing by the community because a club like this, actually any club in the NRL, is a community-based sport and we survive or we die because of our connection with the community.
"I'm really aware that there have been problems in the past, the NRL and the board will do the right thing by the community and we will make sure that this is a club people can trust.
"Whether you're a sponsor, a fan, a little boy or girl watching on television, you will trust this club because we're going to build a great club and we're all going to be proud of it."
Dating back to the sacking of coach John Cartwright and Searle stepping down from the board last August, the Titans have been subjected to numerous off-field distractions that threatened to destabilise the club.
Sponsors have been hard to find and due to the latest drugs-related allegations the team has been left without a permanent training facility less than two weeks before the start of the season.
CEO Graham Annesley has been left to bravely front numerous unpleasant press conferences but appeared relieved that questions about the long-term future of the Titans had finally been answered.
"Since I've arrived at this club I've constantly been asked, 'Is the club going to fold? Is the club going to be relocated?' Today, the clear answer to both of those questions is 'No' and 'No'," Annesley said.
"This club is here for the long term on the Gold Coast and this announcement by Dave should give great heart to our members, to our sponsors, to our corporate partners and to our fan base right across the country that the Gold Coast Titans are going nowhere and it's onward and upward.
"Every club needs financial stability, we've now got it and that's good news for the Gold Coast."
Former Gold Coast Charger Scott Sattler told NRL.com on Monday that he believed the Titans needed to completely rebrand in order to repair damaged relationships within the community. But Smith assured fans that the Titans name is here to stay.
"I think the Titans name is a perfect name and I think there are probably a lot of fans that are Titans fans for life and long may that continue," Smith said.
"All the players' contracts are secure, everybody will get paid. They will get paid within the context of a long-term future for this club. The club will be restructured so that going forward, from now, it will be business as usual.
"What we're announcing is a long-term commitment to the Gold Coast, a long-term commitment to the Titans and we will build a club that the fans can be proud of."