Blues shift to Dome likely

Austadiums   |  Sunday 22nd December 2002
Carlton has taken the first public step towards a shift to Telstra Dome with the massive write-down of Optus Oval grandstands.

Carlton, which suffered a trading loss of about $170,000 for last season, is clearing the decks to make itself a more attractive and affordable transfer commodity.

That appears the case after club president Ian Collins announced a $5 million write-down of the grandstands, which is nine times the amount written down annually by the previous administration led by John Elliott.

The Elliott administration wrote off about $560,000 annually, with an eye to paying off all grandstand debts by the end of the ground lease in 2035. But the new administration immediately slashed $5 million off the $22 million still owing.

Another $5 million write-off next season would leave only $12 million owing -- a figure that would be more appealing to Telstra Dome to pay, with assistance from the AFL, for the Blues to move base to football's city site.

Any deal to entice Carlton to Telstra Dome would be more palatable if the stadium bosses could write off $2 million a year over five years, with the AFL chipping in $2 million as compensation for Carlton foregoing its contract that demands games at Optus Oval until 2006.

If such a deal eventuated by the end of next season, Carlton would be out of the infrastructure debt and would earn considerable income from contracts to play and have social facilities at Telstra Dome.

There are strong suggestions that the three parties already are negotiating Carlton's exit from Optus to Telstra Dome, formerly Colonial Stadium, for as early as season 2004.

Elliott is convinced the move is on the agenda.

"Clearly they are negotiating with Telstra Dome," he said.

Carlton's financial situation can be boosted by receiving AFL dividends in advance and also by seeking their $2 million share from the sale of Waverley.

Collins, as Elliott did for several years before him, is pleading with supporters to become members and to plough funds into the club rather than sit back and expect a select, rich few to carry the burden. The Blues sold 1029 memberships at a tin-rattle last weekend and can count on stalwarts such as Dick Pratt to continue to contribute substantially to the coffers.

Carlton may well be walking a fine line, as Collins pointed out on Friday when he said the club had a $7.55 million blowout for last season.

But that total includes the "paper figure" of $5 million for grandstand write-downs.

It also includes AFL fines of $930,000 for salary cap breaches.

Against that, but not included in the recent financial statement, is a $1.9 million reduction in player payments for next season, which were negotiated by the club with the players in light of its financial struggle.

Also included in the blowout figure is about $450,000 in promised payments to past players, including Steve Silvagni and Craig Bradley.

However if the players decide not to take the promised money (as they have indicated), the $450,000 would go down as income next season, wiping out this season's payment.

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