Winners and losers from a dramatic sports news day
NRL CEO David Gallop speaks to waiting media. AAP Image/Joe Castro
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A new $1.025 billion TV deal for the NRL. David Gallop replacing Ben Buckley as the FFA’s chief executive. It’s fair to say it was a pretty big news day in sport yesterday.
But who were the winners and losers?
Even those below the surface of these events, like the AFL, how did they fare?
Let’s take a look.
Rugby League: Winners
While rugby league fans are entitled to feel like losers – the new deal doesn’t drastically differ from the old one, and it lacks two fan-friendly components of the AFL deal in four free-to-air games and every game on Foxtel – ultimately, the game itself is a winner.
Several years ago South Sydney Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe might as well have screamed “Show me the money!” when he led what would become a chorus of complaints about the size of the NRL’s TV deal in comparison to its main rival.
There were some practical reasons why this was happening, of course, including the fact rugby league games take up two hours of airtime compared to three for AFL games.
But there were reasons in support of the Crowe battle cry, too. The fact league is clearly number one in two of our three biggest states was chief among them.
On top of that, there’s also the fact your average State of Origin game – taking out dead rubbers – averages more than your average AFL grand final in terms of nationwide audience (not bad considering there’s more of them per year). The NRL grand final is also one of the country’s biggest sporting events from a TV ratings perspective.
Now, rugby league is much closer to their main rival. But obviously, it’s about more than that; it’s about what the money can do.
The larger return doesn’t just mean bragging rights, it means rugby league now has the ability to build a “war chest” of its own. Expansion into so-called foreign territory is now a more realistic possibility. You can also start investing more heavily in junior programs as well.
Whatever is considered strategically important, the Australian Rugby League Commission can go for it.
It’s a good position to be in.
There will be fans unhappy someone from “outside the game” has the game’s top job once again. Screw them. David Gallop is a good appointment.
Six years is a good innings, so it’s fair to say Ben Buckley has had his time to leave his mark on the sport.
Unfortunately for him, the negatives were really starting to pile up. Two A-League clubs lost in the space of two seasons. The last three seasons being the worst three in the league’s history for average attendance. The long overdue Western Sydney Wanderers only made possible after a government grant. Only one home Socceroos game since the 2010 World Cup pulling above 30,000 — and even that (40,189 in Brisbane) was unimpressive for a World Cup qualifier against Japan.
He had his achievements too, and not all the dramas have been his fault – Clive Palmer’s shenanigans come to mind – but it’s a good time for a new face to arrive.
David Gallop comes in after running the second-biggest league in the country, and having done so throughout some noticeably tough circumstances, at that.
The NRL was hit by its fair share of scandals during his time in charge, but Gallop was still able to ensure the sport found growth, as evidenced by the size of yesterday’s TV deal.
He is a quality administrator. He knows how to run – as opposed to being second in charge – an organisation with a much larger Australian audience and profile than the FFA. He’s a solid choice.
AFL: Winners and Losers
The AFL are losers in the sense that their biggest rivals have finally caught up in terms of their TV deal. Okay, so $1.025 billion including conta isn’t the same as $1.253 billion including contra.
But the gap has shortened and the NRL have not yet signed away mobile/internet rights (an area that isn’t being fully exploited yet in Australia) and New Zealand rights, which will obviously fetch a bit more than the native game’s.
You constantly hear references to the AFL’s supposed “war chest” and how it’s set up the league’s two expansion clubs. Well, now rugby league can get to work on building one of their own, which would be somewhat frightening to the AFL commission.
On the other hand, Ben Buckley becoming available poses an intriguing scenario.
Is he the man to fill the vacant North Melbourne CEO gig? Could he be sent to fix Port Adelaide? Is an AFL gig, re-grooming him as Andrew Demetriou’s successor, a possibility?
Without knowing what his future plans are, you suspect he’ll find his way back to the AFL industry. The North job is the one that got the most mentions yesterday.
At any rate, another quality administrator in the ranks can’t hurt.
While this will be off the radar for many, I couldn’t let it slide.
Basketball Australia have recently replaced Kristina Keneally as chairperson and Scott Derwin as CEO by appointing … wait for it … Scott Derwin as chairperson and Kristina Keneally as CEO.
If that sentence wasn’t uninspiring enough already, they’ve now done it at a time when two of the most qualified sports administrators in the country went on the market (first Gallop, now Buckley).
In fairness, Keneally hasn’t been involved in the sport for that long so it’s not like you can write off that experiment just yet.
Whether basketball has the funds to pull off a big coup also has to be questioned.
But at a time when fresh blood is desperately needed – and on the back of yet another team going under in the Gold Coast Blaze – yesterday’s news, if nothing else, represents another opportunity lost.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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