CRONULLA officials are set to step up their grand plan to save the embattled club by launching a public campaign for commercial partners in the proposed $110 million development next to Toyota Stadium.Without the estimated $7m a year it could attract to Cronulla’s coffers the debt-ridden Sharks may go under, club insiders say.The future of the Sharks has been the subject of constant speculation, with Cronulla Sutherland Leagues Club having an estimated debt of $12m.The development, which would include 145 apartments for over-55s as well as a hotel, a supermarket and speciality shops, is the cornerstone of the Cronulla board’s goal to shore up the club’s future.The Sharks have spent the past five months working with a property consultancy firm in an effort to complete the details of a package to put to prospective joint venture partners.That process is almost finalised, the Herald has been told, and the club will soon begin an expressions-of-interest campaign in a bid to attract potential commercial partners to take to members at the next annual general meeting at the end of next month.The extent of the cash crisis at Cronulla was reignited on Sunday when coach Ricky Stuart said in the wake of a 44-16 loss to Brisbane – the Sharks’ fifth in six games this year – that the club was not spending to the full amount of the $4.1m NRL salary cap.Sharks chief executive Richard Fisk has since said that the club had in fact cut spending on its NYC and NSW Cup sides, not its top 25 players.But the clarification has done little to dull the spectre of gloom surrounding Toyota Stadium, where cash previously leaked by the football club – including pay-outs to past coaches Chris Anderson and Stuart Raper – has left the Sharks in a precarious financial position  and led to mounting speculation that the club could fold.Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine would not comment on the Sharks’ latest efforts to get the hotel and residential development moving but he has conceded previously that the ambitious project, which received approval from Sutherland Shire Council last August, was not “the panacea to our financial problems”.But unless the development goes ahead, the club’s future is bleak. The development, club sources say, would be irrelevant if the Sharks continued to spend in the unrestrained fashion that landed them in a financial heap.The new administration, headed by Irvine and Fisk, has made no secret of its mission to alleviate the club’s cash-flow problems since they took over the reins in the Shire.In their efforts to correct their revenue streams there have been staff cuts, reworking of flawed commercial deals, a vigorous membership drive and cuts to spending on their lower-grade teams.However, it is acknowledged that it will all come to nothing if the development – on land next to the Sharkies Leagues Club car park – does not attract commercial partners and proceed as planned.The club has ruled out selling the land in a straight-out fire sale, with the move seen by the board as a short-term fix that would likely keep them afloat for only two to three additional years.They have 18 months to act on their development application before it expires
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