Carlton says it has emerged from a 25-year financial blackhole and is sticking with its bold ambition to win a drought-breaking flag within three years.
Carlton has already broken its all-time membership mark of 67,035 and wiped off a crippling $7 million debt.
“To clear almost $7 million of debt in just three years is an incredible effort by our board, made even more incredible when you consider the challenges of 2020. It’s been a total unified club effort,” Blues chief executive Cain Liddle said.
Two years after unveiling a strategic plan that aspires to winning premierships and signing 100,000 members by 2023, Liddle said the COVID-19 pandemic had not changed the roadmap.
“Our plan provides a clear vision as to how we intend on returning Carlton to a position of strength both on and off the field. It’s an ambitious plan. We set out to win premierships, AFL and AFLW,” Liddle said.
“We want to double our membership to 100,000 members and double the size of our ‘Carlton In Business’ network. We wanted to eliminate the historical debt that has weighed our club down for 25 years. Two years in, our board and management are comfortable with our progress.
“And judging by the rapidly increasing membership number, I get the sense our members are as well.”
Carlton has won five wooden spoons since the 2002 salary cap scandal that brought the club to its knees. They have won 16 AFL premierships but none since 1995.
Liddle said the club expected to hit another of its strategic targets this year ahead of schedule – $75 million in revenues. Increased cash flows, he said, had allowed the Blues to bankroll the maximum 105 per cent salary cap spend in 2020 and 2021.
Carlton’s off-field recovery had also put it in position to reassess its reliance on poker machines, he said.
Billionaire Blues benefactor Bruce Mathieson, a former club director, has gifted hundreds of money-spinning pokies to Carlton, rivers of gold that all but saved the club from financial ruin during leaner times.
Work on the club’s $50 million Ikon Park redevelopment began late last year, while the Blues will hold last season’s best and fairest count at Crown Palladium on Saturday night.
Asked about claims made by axed list boss and former club great Stephen Silvagni late last year suggesting he had interfered in list management decisions, Liddle said: “We won’t be discussing issues relating to player contracts or interest we may show in players at other clubs.
“They are issues for our list management team to discuss behind closed doors and that’s where they will stay”.
But on the future of Cripps, he said: “He is the captain of our football club, we do however understand and respect players and managers’ rights to consider all opportunities. What I will say is that (football boss) Brad Lloyd, (senior coach) David Teague and I often discuss that across all our experiences at numerous clubs, we have never come across a player as invested in improving their football club as Patrick Cripps. In light of that, we are very comfortable with where things are at with Crippa.”
Liddle said the club was aiming to hit 80,000 members this season – up from 50,326 in 2017.
BLUES SKY MINING
Carlton’s 2023 strategic plan
200 Carlton in Business members
50,000 average home game attendance
$50m Princes Park rebuild