Rugby league commission ushers in new era

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After more than three years of speculation, hand-wringing and boardroom wranglings, the long-awaited Australian Rugby League Commission will finally see the light of day on Friday.

New chairman, Queenslander John Grant, a member of the 1972 Kangaroos World Cup team, will launch the commission at the code’s new Moore Park headquarters on a historic day for rugby league in Australia.

NRL chief executive David Gallop will continue in a similar role alongside Grant, with seven other commission members made up of heavyweights from the world of business, education and advertising.

The new commission will see the dissolution of the current ARL and officially mark the end of News Limited’s involvement in the running of the game.

The ARL will hold its final meeting at 8.30 (AEST) on Friday morning to officially dissolve the body.

The new commission will be unveiled at a media conference fronted by Grant 11.30am (AEST) – just under three weeks’ before the start of the 2012 NRL season.

It will take control of the game at a critical time, with television, internet and sponsorship deals all expiring at the end of the season.

Gary Pemberton, the man widely credited with securing record broadcasting rights for the Sydney Olympics, is on the new board and likely to be entrusted with securing a new lucrative TV deal.

He will be pushing to secure an agreement that is close to the $1.25 billion pocketed by the AFL last year.

However, that task will be severely tested in the wake of last week’s High Court decision to allow Optus to show delayed AFL highlights on their handsets, which is in direct competition to Telstra’s exclusive contract worth $153m over five years.

The NRL were looking for a similar deal and there are now concerns they could be sold short again.

Pemberton will be joined on the commission by Harris Farm founder and chairwoman Catherine Harris; brand strategist Ian Elliot and business heavyweights Peter Gregg and Jeremy Sutcliffe.

Highly-respected indigenous educationalist Dr Chris Sarra – Queensland’s Australian of the Year in 2009 and a key figure in the Indigenous All Stars concept – is also on board along with former NSW skipper Wayne Pearce.

The end of the current ARL will not affect the NSWRL and QRL, who will continue to oversee representative sides in their respective states.

The Country Rugby League will merge with the NSWRL and be based at the new HQ in Sydney.

© AAP 2014
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