While most of the Queensland coastline has spent the last two days battening down the hatches against category four tropical cyclone Hamish, Premier Anna Bligh was more concerned with locating a friendly eye in her own election storm — what to do about her rapidly diminishing election prospects on the Gold Coast?
With polls indicating she could have a battle to retain all but one of her ALP-held Coast seats, in what until now has been a low pledge campaign on new spending, Bligh’s $60 million towards an estimated $130 million Carrara multi-purpose 25,000 capacity stadium downsized redevelopment has now become her most expensive new campaign promise.
Having previously rated a second Coast stadium as low on her list of infrastructure priorities — to the chagrin of many, including the influential Gold Coast Bulletin — her change of heart will be seen as an election sweetener to help try and combat a looming decimation of her sitting Coast MPs. But then the AFL back room boys have been very clever in helping her produce such an outcome.
In what could be described as lay-by funding — aside from the Gold Coast City Council’s already committed $20 million and the remaining $50 million required to be sourced from the Federal Government yet to commit, and the AFL itself — in effect, the AFL has gone guarantor for Bligh.
Her Government, if re-elected, will only pay out $2 million in the next financial year, another $7 million the following year, and the remaining $51 million in the third year, helping Bligh get the kudos for what she can’t afford now. As long as the league doesn’t now get a hospital pass from Kevin Rudd, it might only need to find maybe another $10 to $20 million as its share of that $130 million construction cost.
There would then appear to be no longer any major impediment to the AFL Commission approving the GC17 license to enter the competition in 2011, despite some of the poorer Melbourne clubs fretting about their own survival in the current financial crisis.
When Crikey spoke this morning to GC-17 bid chairman John Witheriff, he was understandably elated that Carrara’s future was now looking a lot more secure than it was just 24 hours ago.
“I don’t have any knowledge of what the Federal Government might do, but I am obviously very hopeful that they will come to the party with some funding and the whole thing will come together,” he said.
The club will not be privately owned but dependent on the AFL providing up to $100 million over a five-year time frame to get the club up and running.
As Witheriff explains, while the league would subsidise the Gold Coast team during that transition period and would appoint the board to run the club, it was always envisaged the club would ultimately be a traditionally run members-owned community club.
Witheriff explained that when the AFL first approached him to get involved in helping establish the means to put together a Gold Coast based club, he made it very clear it needed to be a community club run by its members and not privately owned.
“I said if this is to be successful, the Gold Coast has to own it. It can’t just be another entertainment-owned facility that comes to town, takes money out and leaves.”
“I think you have to bear in mind that in 2009, things are tough, and 2010 will also be very tough. But by 2011 when we would be active in the marketplace, I think we would actually be moving up the economic cycle again and our timing will be good.”
In that respect, he says he has been blown away by the level of corporate support his bid team has already been promised.
“I think the business community here is very excited by the Gold Coast brand. When people come to matches here on a Saturday, they will be chanting for the Gold Coast, not for the Sharks or whatever — that’s very important.”
It seems now subject to Kevin Rudd — GC17 with the AFL’s blessing is almost there in its quest to enter its own team and not be home to an existing refugee club which was never going to appeal to the locals.