The business of the NRL (how to lose a fan)
Tuesday 21st August 2012 will be remembered as the day that the NRL signed it’s billion dollar deal and secured the immediate future of rugby league in Australia.
It also will provide a significant financial windfall to the clubs in the competition and hopefully all tiers of the game, right through to grass roots level.
The news has been featured right through the day via social media with delight by the clubs, all extolling the virtues of this wonderful outcome and how great it is for the fans.
Well, not this fan.
Twenty-four years, I have been a loyal supporter of my team. Twenty-four years through hard seasons, good seasons and a few great seasons.
Twenty-four years of trips to the big smoke to watch them play, tickets to games and merchandise purchases…but also a twenty-four year fan who chooses not to have pay TV, just for extra rugby league privileges.
All to the point where I asked the club’s media voice, via Twitter, how the deal was ‘great’ for a regional country fan watching free-to-air TV, in that I stood only to see a handful of live games with them playing.
The three responses I received first doubted that my figures were correct. Secondly I was advised that if I had Fox Sports I would see almost all games live and finished by stating “That’s correct. But this is 2012 and pay TV is a reality no matter what you want to watch on TV”.
So finally, we get to the truth of the matter. No more window dressing or warm and fuzzy niceties…just ‘pay your money to watch your NRL team, matey’.
Cough up boys and girls, no more free lunches here. Free-to-air sport broadcasting is no longer a focus for the NRL or the clubs, only the proverbial poor second cousin.
If you want to follow the NRL, this new five-year deal sees only one live game free-to-air in regional and parts of country Queensland on a Friday night followed by another delayed game and Sundays’ delayed telecast.
Add to that finals if your team is lucky, a few rep. games, State of Origin and an odd Thursday night dabble and that’s about it for free-to-air viewers.
In Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia we will still see limited or delayed free-to-air time slots and these are all potential focus areas to increase game exposure and fan-base.
I’m sorry, but I can’t find any way to say that this is a win for fans of the game, especially when you compare it to another large football competition which offers it’s followers four live matches, broadcast in HD, free-to-air each weekend.
It just underlines the cold reality in this day and age, that support for your game or your club in the NRL will now be measured in dollar contributions.
I know I’m just one person, but I’m one person with a voice and one person who will now consider with more thought where I might spend dollars next time I seek some sporting entertainment.
As for my club, well I’m still here and loyalty dictates that there can be no ‘other’. However, a little, perhaps naive but always fiercely loyal, part of me died today. And it, unlike my club’s chances each season, can never be resurrected.
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