Gold Coast no longer so golden for the codes

John Davidson Roar Guru

By John Davidson, John Davidson is a Roar Guru

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    Along with western Sydney, the Gold Coast has been seen as the go-to market, a growing area that is fertile ground for professional sports competitions.

    The land of sun and surf, the Glitter Strip on Queensland’s south-eastern tip was supposed to be the lucrative place of success for Australia’s sports codes.

    How wrong that has so far proved to be.

    There are, of course, many positive factors about the Gold Coast. It is one of Australia’s fastest-growing cities, with strong interstate migration and a burgeoning population of more than half a million.

    It a huge tourism area, pulling in visitors from both overseas and around the country. And it has an enviable climate and lifestyle, devoid of the traffic snarls or close density of other Australian cities, as well as a history of producing world-class athletes. But that’s where the positives stop.

    The Gold Coast also has a lot of negatives about it – Queensland’s annual 2010-2011 police report showed it is the state’s crime capital.

    In July last year the Queensland Police Union labelled the Gold Coast as Australia’s crime capital.

    But the area’s underbelly goes further. Unemployment on the Gold Coast is rife. According to recent data unemployment numbers are growing, though other research disputes this, and unemployment is higher there than the Queensland average. Some reports put the Gold Coast’s unemployment rate at 6.4%, compared to the national rate of 5.2%, and on some parts of the Coast “unemployment is estimated to be as high as 13%”.

    Despite it being a kind of mecca for retirees, the Gold Coast also has a large young population. This is estimated as being around 19% of the total population, and its close proximity to the large NSW town of Tweed Heads means there is an overflow.

    The Tweed Heads area stretching down to Byron Bay faces a lot of the same issues – high unemployment, restless youth, terrible public transport. There is little for young people to do, and with few job opportunities, some turn to crime, drink and drugs.

    But despite all this, a love of sport in the area remains strong. There is an abundance of beaches and fields for the sports mad to follow their passions.

    Successful athletes from the Gold Coast (and Tweed area) in recent times include Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic, Grant Hackett, Sally Pearson, Tommy Oar, James Brown, Sara Carrigan, Ky Hurst, countless NRL players and many, many more.

    But this doesn’t mean that professional football, rugby league, AFL and NBL clubs can all prosper on the Coast at the same time. With a large working-class area where cash is tight, unemployment is growing and public transport is woeful, attracting large crowds is always going to be tough. Exorbitant stadium deals hardly help. Just having a rich owner to bankroll the club is not enough. The FFA has found this out the hard way with Clive Palmer.

    Success on the Gold Coast needs strong grassroots connections, partnerships with local junior clubs, school programs and affordable ticket prices. It needs support from the local media, especially the Gold Coast Bulletin, and effective marketing. Winning on the field also remains paramount. Even with all that, there are no guarantees.

    The news that the Gold Coast Titans are struggling – and could face the axe should come as no surprise. Gold Coast United has been a failure and although a savior may be found, the tough road is only beginning.

    Relying on tourists from South East Asia to come to the football regularly is a bit of stretch.

    The Gold Coast Suns are being propped up by the AFL’s endless cash coffers. Even with the AFL’s powerful backing, it is still very tough for the Suns. They cannot rely on draft picks, tourists from Victoria coming to games and novelty NRL cross-code players generating interest forever.

    The Gold Coast has already seen many sports clubs die over the years. Rugby League’s Giants, Seagulls, Gladiators and Chargers. The NBL’s Cougars and Rollers have also gone under.

    The city still has its fair share of top-line sports events with the annual NRL All Stars game, the Magic Millions and Rugby Sevens, not to mention the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the cards. The IndyCars were dropped back in 2008 but there are attempts to revive the event.

    Rationalisation and consolidation of the Australian sports market is inevitable. The Gold Coast may be appear to be all golden but it remains a fragile market with hardly the sturdiest foundations.

    Any sports body entering the Gold Coast needs to start small, get locals on side, know the city intimately and build slowly, otherwise they are doomed to repeat the failures of the past.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 1:00pm
      kingplaymaker said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      Oddly enough rugby is the one code that could succeed their as it is such a strong heartland for the sport, and the one that doesn’t put out a team.

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 5:17pm
        Wal Footrot said | March 22nd 2012 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

        Well the Gold Coast Rugby has a 6 figure debt and the local Grand Final last year was absolutely amateur hour. Lets not forget the ‘East Coast Aces’ debacle, or the awful Reds crowds when they’ve taken a game there (albiet when the Reds were spew and before Skilled park)

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 1:07pm
      Ian Whitchurch said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      John Davidson,

      Regarding the Suns, stop assuming AFL clubs are run by the same lazy, gutless administrators as cripple other clubs and other codes.

      The Suns made a profit last year – no, really.

      Part of that profit is that because they put cash in when it’s being built, the AFL has management rights for Metricon Stadium, which meant they could do things like run a FooFighters concert in December, that netted substantial money for the club.

      “They cannot rely on draft picks, tourists from Victoria coming to games and novelty NRL cross-code players generating interest forever.” Say what ? Yeah they can. They’ll get a new first round pick every year, and AFL fans will certainly come up to grab some winter sun and see their team every year, and Karmichael Hunt is becoming a very good inside midfielder, thank you very much.

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 1:30pm
        TomC said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

        I don’t know if Karmichael Hunt is becoming a ‘very good inside midfielder’, but the Suns can certainly take heart from the way attendances held up over the course of the season, despite the team’s poor record (they didn’t win a game at Metricon stadium). That suggests to me that they have a good chance of building long-term support, particularly as the side improves.

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:00pm
        JVGO said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

        I love watching administrators work. It gets me really high too IW. Friday night live Administrators: Demetriou at work, the Gold Coast episode, it’s a cracker obviously. I’ll have to get it out on DVD. I get a real thrill driving around checking out Coles and Woolworths stores too. Such great business plans! Inspiring stuff.

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:57pm
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:57pm | ! Report


          Sports administration is rather like those yard-eating forwards in league – its boring, its grinding, and it lets all the spectacular things happen.

          If you dont pay attention to it, you get to whine a lot about how your team, or your code, isnt doing as well as you think it should.

          Gosh, and who does that passive-aggressive whining so well ? Its a four letter nick, starting with Joint Venture, and then the opposite of Stop.

          • March 22nd 2012 @ 11:57pm
            JVGO said | March 22nd 2012 @ 11:57pm | ! Report

            Whatever turns you on IW. The trouble with the whole Great moments of Administration program is that after all the twists and turns when at the end he’s been caught for his crimes and they ask him to reveal why he did it he always says ‘I just had to get bigger and I thought screw everything and everyone else’. It’s the same every episode. Hardly worth watching really.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 22nd 2012 @ 11:27pm
        ItsCalled AussieRules said | March 22nd 2012 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

        I’d like to see how the AFL arrived at the Suns “profit figure” when they spent 100M setting up the club.

        • March 23rd 2012 @ 9:21am
          me, I like football said | March 23rd 2012 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          Ummm…. no they didn’t

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 2:41pm
      Kerry Taylor said | March 22nd 2012 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

      I agree wholeheartedly with John Davidson, on all points. I think a big factor in low crowd numbers is the cost. It’s a big slug out of the family budget to attend a game at Skilled – particularly when you can watch the game live from the comfort of your own lounge room and not have to face the inevitable queues for buses both to and from the stadium. PLUS the support from the local paper, The Gold Coast Bulletin, has been unbelievably non-existant. Even though Gold Coast United mightn’t be in the finals quest this year, over the past couple of weeks there has been no mention of the A-League finals at all. It’s almost like the sports editor is anti-A-league/football. Even last year when the Titans and the Suns were wooden spooners, the coverage for the leagues were still there, so readers could at least follow how the the finals quest was going. If there was no other coverage of the A-League from other forms of media, you would have to think the entire A-League was finished. I attribute a lot of lack of interest in Gold Coast United because there is a vary biased coverage from the local paper.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 3:05pm
      Shane Pike said | March 22nd 2012 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

      I’d like nothing more than all the dimwitted spectator “sports” to join all the southerners who have invaded the Gold Coast (thereby stuffing it right up) & turn around & f..k off.
      Nowhere in Queensland is the “go to place” for more idiot ball games.
      I mean, how slow can ya go?

    • Roar Guru

      March 22nd 2012 @ 3:24pm
      John Davidson said | March 22nd 2012 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

      Kerry, Clive Palmer’s war on News Limited hasn’t helped. He’s sued the Gold Coast Bulletin and bagged News Limited in general:

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 4:39pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | March 22nd 2012 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

        Clive Palmer hates News Limited ? I might have to revise my opinion of him 🙂

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 6:08pm
        Kerry Taylor said | March 22nd 2012 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

        That’s right – and it’s a pretty biased response from the Gold Coast Bulletin. I thought the media was supposed to represent it’s readers and give fair and unbiased reports. Editors have a right to express personal opinions in their columns, as do readers in letters to the editor etc – “Freedom of Speech”, but as a entity a newspaper should put aside it’s personal grievances and treat their readers with respect, which I don’t feel the Bulletin has. Gold Coast United is NOT Clive Palmer – it’s the players and the fans.

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:58pm
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:58pm | ! Report


          Actually, no. Gold Coast United is Clive Palmer.

          And thats why a league should only admit clubs who are *clubs*, and who are owned and controlled by their members.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 4:23pm
      Matt_S said | March 22nd 2012 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

      The Bulletin’s CEO is Victorian and chief sports editor is a former Lions AFL player I’m told. The Mayor is Ron Clarke. Enough said.

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