Time to consolidate for the NRL
The new television rights deal announced by the ARLC last week has drawn heavy criticism from some.
Even though the Commission succeeded in acquiring the promised billion-dollar agreement, the details of the deal have left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.
It is very much a “same old, same old” situation with Channel Nine and Foxtel continuing their love affair with rugby league with only a couple of “sweeteners” thrown in as a point of difference between this deal and the previous one. But the fact is this, we’re stuck with it for the next five years.
All that aside, I think the new Commission has done a great job in gaining this much capital for the game. I also think that they are aware of the shortcomings of the deal and are hopefully taking a “short term pain for a long term gain” approach.
The ARLC have a lot on their plate at the moment, including finding a new CEO and ensuring the finals play out without a hitch using the new format.
I think the ARLC have consolidated their position and given themselves a great platform to take the game into the future with well formed plans and structures, so that when the next television deal comes around, they will be the ones on the front foot.
The NRL clubs have been waiting for a long time for this financial windfall, and now that it has arrived they want their share. But I don’t see them behaving like little kids scrabbling after a handful of lollies to get it, though.
The newly formed NRL Council (encompassing all clubs) and the ARLC seem to have a mutual respect for one another and will be working together to develop the best model to move the game forward, whilst still enabling the clubs to share in the new wealth.
In fact, a sub-committee comprising several commissioners plus acting NRL CEO Shane Mattiske, David Trodden (Wests Tigers),Nick Politis (Sydney Roosters), Peter Doust (St George Illawarra) and Todd Greenberg (Canterbury-Bankstown) has been formed for this very reason. If all parties work in the best interests of the game, these individuals have the potential to steer rugby league into a vibrant future.
The players have also been keeping an eye on the television rights deal and they also want their cut. The formation of a new and improved collective bargaining agreement is in the best interests of the players and the ARLC.
The details of an increased salary cap, increases to representative payments and improvements in conditions for fringe players need to be sorted out. Both sides have to be flexible though, otherwise it could get ugly.
The issue of State of Origin eligibility must also be redefined in accordance with the modern rugby league landscape or the jewel of Australian rugby league will become a joke… it is already on it’s way to being just that. A hard stance is required and I think the majority of players, from this side of the Tasman and the other, will applaud this.
The referees have taken shots all year. In fact, we could write a book that dwarfs “War and Peace” on the exploits of the whistleblowers in 2012… and the season isn’t over yet! But they are not the only problem.
The referees as well as the entire reporting system including the match review committee and the judiciary needs to come under the same umbrella and run by the same small group of people so that everyone is on the same page.
The panel could be made up of a recently retired player of high standing (Nathan Hindmarsh?), an ex-referee that actually knew what he was doing (I have no suggestion…), and possibly a Commissioner. The referees are suffering from a crisis of confidence and have gone into siege mentality mode.
The communication between the referees and players is at an all-time low. The communication between the coaches and the referee coaches is almost non-existent. Open the channels of communication and we might start making some improvements. And a tweaking of the rules to make things simpler wouldn’t be a bad idea either. And while you’re at it, give the video referee a couple of extra heads.
In regards expansion, I don’t buy John Grant’s assessment of the extra game not being worthwhile. Of course it is. It just might not be looking like that in the AFL at the moment because the two new teams are very young and are currently copping a hammering.
Watch them in four years time; you’ll have a different opinion. I also think Grant would have a different opinion if asked him about expansion without David Gyngell sitting next to him.
Essentially, the ARLC has only had one year to look at expansion and most of the information has been filtered by the previous administration. They should review all of this data and as decisions are made, be public with them.
If the Central Coast Bears aren’t a good fit for the future of the game; tell them and the rest of the rugby league community. They deserve that at the least. The same goes for any other prospective bid.
One thing the ARLC cannot do is compare itself to AFL. The AFL had a big head start in that Australian Rules football was already a very popular sport in South Australia and Western Australia when they expanded into those areas.
Rugby league is a pioneering sport in these parts of the country. Five years should be plenty of time to get the ARLC’s strategic plans right and also have the selected new teams ready to go. Wherever they may be. But Perth and a second Brisbane team sound good to me.
A big criticism of the new deal is the lack of support for grassroots footy. The ARLC needs to use its funds appropriately and not just throw money at organisations such as the Country Rugby League and hope for the best.
They need to find out the core problems and put systems and protocols in place to help grassroots rugby league thrive again. More representation in schools is needed, which is a big strength of the AFL, especially in the Riverina region of NSW. More games in the regional areas to improve the exposure of the game.
Heavily subsidise registration and insurance for junior clubs. Make league an affordable game again. Life is already hard enough without having to tell your kids that you can’t afford for them to play rugby league. Like everything, it all comes down to money. But if the kids don’t play the game, the game won’t survive.
In five years time, if the clubs and players are happy with how the game is being run; if the referees actually have a bearing on things with the Match Review Committee and Judiciary on the same page and being consistent; if the game is in position to welcome two expansion teams that are fully equipped and ready to join the competition; and if the numbers of players around the nation increase each year, the next television rights deal will be much harder for Channel Nine and Foxtel to win.
They will need to step up and they won’t have a right of reply when the next agreement is up for grabs. Rugby league will be the stronger party and the TV stations will be pulling out all the stops next time around.
Five years should be long enough to put the game in a very strong position; a billion dollars should be just enough.