Hot topics and cold reactions in rugby league
Rugby league, like all sports, has its fair share of gossip, but the most recent has re-stoked a fire that should always be burning in any sports fan’s heart.
The most recent hot topics have been the leadership of the rugby league in Australia, the TV rights deal, and expansion or retention.
The leadership will see a drastic change in the near future, with the Independent Commission coming into effect only 36 months late.
The problem with the new leadership change is that it’s not all that independent. They all derive from New South Wales or Queensland. Not great if expansion is on the table and non-traditional heartlands are up against the two stronghold states.
To truly be independent they needed to have some outsiders, even people who don’t have knowledge of the past politics of the sport.
For example, someone from the NFL such as Green Bay Packers Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Sales Laura Sankey, or Marco Baldi, the CEO of Alba Berlin who made basketball acceptable and popular in Berlin.
As a whole there must be some slightly cold reactions to the ‘Independent’ Commission. It is a major positive step, and will shall test them by their fruits, but it could have been better.
The problem with the TV rights deal is the unpredictability of the outcome. We don’t even know what number the NRL is looking for, and we don’t know who will try for the NRL rights.
With Channel 7 achieving the holy grail of become the sole only free-to-air AFL channel in almost a decade, they will not be bidding for the rights of regular-season NRL (they may try for State of Origin or specialty games like the All-Stars or the ANZAC Tests).
Channel 10 seem to be, under the direction of Murdoch and co., trying to rid themselves of sport altogether (with the new ONE showing 24 with Keifer Sutherland).
It may seem that Channel 9 will only have to face Fox Sports for the rights, and this could leave the NRL with much less than they bargained for.
It may turn out that there could be a bidding war which could lead to the NRL receiving a large deal, but it is most likely the NRL will remain on Channel 9 and the NRL will have to embrace mediocre broadcasting for another five years.
The reaction to that one could be very cold.
When it comes to expansion, rugby league has a safety net – New South Wales and Queensland. But it has remained in its comfort zone for far too long.
Melbourne Storm have shown that with enough time you can establish a footprint. It may be small, but it can only grow.
Rugby league needs to expand, it cannot remain on the Eastern Seaboard and on the M62 in England. It must move to new markets, try some adventurous strategies.
Yes, it must be smart and not go over the top by placing a team in every capital city, but it must make a move.
Retention is vital, the NRL must try and expand its audience in the heartland, but it must move to new markets and see new heartlands emerge.
The next four years are vital to the strength of league in Australia. If it stays where it is it will only go backwards. If it moves out from where it is it may go either forward or backward, but at least it moved.
New markets mean new clientele and new horizons. New markets are what TV CEOs are after, and the NRL must cater to both the TV CEO and the people of Australia. Expand and retain.
These four years could see a cold reaction, but it will be even colder if the NRL does not move.
These hot topics all have reactions, and the reactions can sometimes be cold. But for the sake of the NRL and rugby league in Australia we must confront these hot topics and find ways to ensure we don’t have cold reactions.
Rugby league will not survive on resting on its laurels but by confronting issues that have confronted all sports.
Let’s hope Rugby league can be smarter than its counterparts.
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