CEO scouting old haunts for Ballymore plan March 17, 2010 - 3:25PM QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael has been scouring his old stomping ground in Melbourne for inspiration as Brisbane City Council edges closer a decision on the development application for iconic inner-city rugby ground Ballymore. The future of Ballymore is central to the prosperity of the embattled Queensland Rugby Union, which has sought financial assistance from the ARU as radical reform takes place to confront the immense challenges the code and franchise now face. Carmichael, who was recruited from the AFL, has taken a scrupulous approach to researching potential uses for Ballymore, including some ideas from Melbourne, where a number of football clubs have breathed fresh vigour into crumbling community grounds and training bases. But he says he won't be rushed on a decision for the final blueprint of Ballymore, which is looming as one of the most important calls in the history of the QRU and one which the organisation needs to get right if it's to stop the financial drain hampering the code. "We've got an asset there that we've got an opportunity to think deeply about and make sure it turns into a long-term asset for rugby," Carmichael said. "We're in a very good space at the moment. We're not making kneejerk reactions and decisions. We've given ourselves the chance to make good decisions for rugby and the Ballymore decision is one we're going to take our time on in terms of exactly what it looks like. "We've got the responsibility of getting that asset to be a very important part of rugby over the next 50 years." The application before council includes provisions for a specialist sports medicine/rehabilitation centre, gymnasium, pool complex, an additional sporting oval and, according to the QRU website, "other improvements designed to make the complex initially self-supporting and eventually revenue-generating". But the final design may not be entirely reflective of the current plans, with Carmichael and his team casting the net far and wide for information on how to make the Ballymore site functional and profitable. Central to that plan may be some AFL models, including redevelopments at Richmond, Carlton, North Melbourne and Footscray. "I've been to them all. I've worked on those programs and we've been down and looked at nearly every AFL development, from elite sporting assets to community building," Carmichael said. "Each of those models are unique. They all tackle the community space a bit differently. Some are indigenous education, some are multi-cultural, then you have the Doggies (Western Bulldogs) who have creches and kindergartens. "North Melbourne has education for under-privileged, Carlton is very much about the elite and the fans being able to come in and see the elite facility and see their players. "I've been doing this for months. My team has looked at all the modeling overseas, what's going on there. We need to have governments see how rugby can grow and how we it can prosper." Another model suggested to the QRU is that of Redfern Oval, home of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which has been recast as a community asset and elite training and administration base for the resident NRL side. A recent Super 14 clash at Ballymore between the Reds and Auckland sparked fresh cries for a permanent return once the deal at Suncorp Stadium expires at the end of the year. Carmichael said he had not ruled out more games at Ballymore and is keeping an open mind for a fabled venue worth a reputed $18 million but contributes almost nothing to the QRU bottom line. "We don't have a closed mind one way or another. It's about taking all the experience we've been gathering and all the intelligence we've been working through to determine what option will deliver the best result for us," Carmichael said. "I don't have a pre-conceived notion whether we should or we shouldn't play there. What I do know is it would be ridiculous as an administrator not to look at it. "(But) if it's not a stadium mindset that we have, how do we turn that into an asset for the Reds to make them more elite. And then what does it mean in terms of taxpayers - how do we turn the rest of Ballymore into a community asset that not only works for rugby but works for a much wider audience." The QRU is likely to bring in external consultants to help them renegotiate their deal with Suncorp Stadium, including the ARU, with Carmichael keen to find a way to better engage fans in a 52,000-seat venue that is almost always less than half full for Reds home games. Carmichael is also confident long-overdue moves to delve into the underlying issues causing the decay of the QRU are paying off. He believes the wider Queensland rugby community, as well as the ARU, are supportive of what he describes as "major reform". "It wasn't just the financial side of it - it's a far bigger issues that that," Carmichael said. "I think rugby in Queensland has not had a common ambition between everybody. Everybody has been left, to a certain extent, too much on their own. "It's about bringing all of that together. This was a position I've been working on that for some time because I'm a great believer that in any sporting code, if you don't have a strong governing body then the code has some deep troubles. "I've been out to see the clubs - I've been seeing them since I got here in December with the same message. The message about the state of rugby has come out in the last two weeks in the media isn't new to these guys, I've just been the one who's peeled back the carpet and shown them what it all means and how our code is going against the competition. "I've had strong support and endorsement from all the people I've met. The ARU is very comforted that there's an administration that knows what they're doing."