Is the Gold Coast a fickle sporting market?
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With the Titans’ well publicised troubles, Gold Coast United folding under crowd pressures, and the Suns’ inability to draw a crowd (and/or win a game), the question must be asked “is the Gold Coast a fickle sporting market?”
To answer the question you must look into the history of professional sport on the Gold Coast.
In 1986 the Victorian Football League began expansion of their league by adding Brisbane and Perth based teams. The Brisbane football club, known as the Brisbane Bears, were not able to find a ground suitable for their needs in Brisbane.
The result would be a new oval-shaped ground based on the Gold Coast, known as Carrara Stadium which would become the Bears first home ground.
On 19 April, 1987 the first ever professional sporting event on the Gold Coast occurred at Carrara Stadium. The game attracted a sell-out crowd of 17,795 fans to the new stadium and was deemed a success. The crowd figure still holds the tenth highest attendance record at Carrara Stadium. Although the Brisbane Bears only achieved a 6-16 win-loss record in the 1987 VFL season the Victorian Football League were pleased with their Queensland expansion teams progress.
The success of a team based on the Gold Coast would flow through to other sports when just one year later the New South Wales Rugby League started their own football club named the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants. The Giants chose to play their home games at Seagulls Stadium based in Tweed Heads, New South Wales.
Although not officially playing home games on the Gold Coast, Seagulls Stadium is located five minutes from the Queensland-New South Wales border and considered by many to be a part of the Gold Coast, which was reflected with the hyphenated name of the franchise.
The Giants’ debut NSWRL home game was a stark contrast to the Bears’ first home game just a year before. The game attracted an audience of just 5,280 against the Canterbury Bulldogs, one of the most popular Sydney-based teams in Queensland. Although home attendances during the 1988 NSWRL were poor, on 8th May, 1988, Seagulls Stadium would pull a sell-out crowd of 13,423 in a game which saw the Giants triumph over cross city rivals the Brisbane Broncos in the first time a Gold Coast team had played a Brisbane team in a professional league.
In 1989 the Australian Baseball League announced the start of a Baseball franchise based out of Carrara Stadium named the Gold Coast Clippers. The Clippers would finish their debut season in 1989-90 before changing their name to the Daikyo Dolphins due to sponsorship and moving home games to Palm Meadows, another baseball field also based on the Gold Coast. In 1990 the National Basketball League decided to also start a team on the Gold Coast who were named the Gold Coast Cougars and were based out of the Carrara Indoor Stadium, located next to Carrara Stadium.
The continuation of poor attendance figures in the 1989 NSWRL season would result in the Tweed Seagulls Leagues Club purchase of the Giants franchise. The club’s name would change to the Gold Coast Seagulls and jersey colours were changed accordingly. For the first time in Australian sporting history a franchise would train and play home games outside of the city they were named after.
After finishing second last it was announced at the end of the 1990 season that Queensland great Wally Lewis would be joining the Seagulls. Excitement surrounding the decision quickly vanished as the Seagulls picked up the wooden spoon in the 1991 NSWRL season.
Following a wooden spoon season for the Seagulls and a second consecutive wooden spoon for the Bears, the Daikyo Dolphins proved the Gold Coast wasn’t a joke when it came to sports as they picked up the Gold Coast’s first ever national competition championship in any sport during the 1991-92 ABL season.
At the conclusion of the 1992 NSWRL season, the Seagulls would walk away with their second consecutive wooden spoon while the Bears’ second last placing prompted a permanent move north to Brisbane. The Bears’ leaving the Gold Coast was the first time a sporting team either relocated from the Gold Coast or folded. Changes continued to sporting teams on the Gold Coast as the Cougars were re-branded to the Gold Coast Rollers at the beginning of the 1992 NBL season.
Now with three national competitions sporting teams based on the Gold Coast (Seagulls, Dolphins and Rollers) the 1993 season saw the Seagulls pick up their third consecutive wooden spoon while the Dolphins rebranded to the Gold Coast Cougars and moved back to Carrara Stadium. Following two years of no success for any sport teams based on the Gold Coast, the Seagulls officially folded at the end of the 1995 season.
Following the folding of the Seagulls franchise the ARL announced a third rugby league team would be created on the Gold Coast, to be named the Gold Coast Chargers and to play out of Carrara Stadium. The newly created Chargers would finish the 1996 ARL season in 18th place out of 20 while the Rollers team folded following the 1996 NBL season.
At the beginning of the 1997 seasons the Gold Coast had just two sporting franchises left in the Chargers and the Cougars. Following the 1998 National rugby league season in which the Chargers finished second last they would follow the lead of other teams before them officially fold in December. Now, with just one professional sporting team based on the Gold Coast, the Cougars would go out with a bang and win the 1998-99 ABL season. This clinched the Gold Coast’s second ever national competition championship.
Although the Gold Coast Cougars won the 1998-99 ABL championship, the Australian Baseball League officially disbanded in 1999 and brought an end to professional sport on the Gold Coast. The beginning of the new millennium had seen the Gold Coast go through nine different sporting brands with nothing but memories to show for it. The teams in order of creation were: Bears, Giants, Clippers, Dolphins, Cougars (Basketball), Seagulls, Rollers, Cougars (Baseball) and Chargers.
After a six year hiatus of professional sport on the Gold Coast it was announced on 27 May, 2005 that a fourth attempt at a Gold Coast-based rugby league team would be admitted into the NRL. The new team would be named the Gold Coast Titans and would play home games out of the new 27,000 seat stadium in Robina. The Titans entered the NRL in 2007 and played their first season home games at Carrara Stadium. The Titans enjoyed high crowd attendances which caught the eye of other sporting bodies.
The National Basketball League announced that in the 2007-08 season a Gold Coast team would enter the competition to be known as the Gold Coast Blaze and be based out of the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. At the end of 2007 the Australian Rugby Championship announced the formation of a Gold Coast-based rugby union team to be named the East Coast Aces who would enter the competition in 2008 and be based out of Carrara Stadium.
In 2008 it was also announced the semi-professional Ice Hockey team in the Australian Ice Hockey League, Brisbane Bluetongues, would be moving to the Gold Coast. The relocated team would be known as the Gold Coast Bluetongues and would play home games at Iceland Bundall.
In March, 2008 the Australian Football League announced a Gold Coast-based team named the Gold Coast Suns would entered the competition in 2011 and would play home games out of the redeveloped Carrara Stadium. On June 3, 2008 the A-League announced a Gold Coast team would be joining the A-League in the 2009-10 season. They would be named Gold Coast United and would play home games out of Robina Stadium. Following their first season in the Australian Rugby Championship the East Coast Aces folded.
In March 2012 it was revealed that the Gold Coast Titans were in $25 million debt. A month later the A-League announced Gold Coast United would not be continuing in the A-League beyond the 2011-12 season. In May 2012 it was announced the Gold Coast Blaze had entered voluntary administration and were $12 million in debt.
If you have managed to make it this far in the article it’s not hard to see the trend that has occurred on the Gold Coast in regards to sport. Once a sporting code starts a team in the city everyone else jumps in like vultures without fully understanding the landscape of the market.
The truth of the matter is that the Gold Coast public’s occasional interest in sport coupled with the small population does not allow for several professional teams to be based in the one city.
Of the 19 years the Gold Coast have had at least one professional sporting team based in the city they have picked up two championships. The official count of re-brands, relocations and folds on the Gold Coast is eleven while there is currently three professional teams and one semi-professional team based on the Gold Coast. One would be hard pressed to believe all four of those teams will survive long term, based on the history of this brutal sporting market.
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