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With the GWS Giants having finally made their AFL debut while the Gold Coast Titans are on the verge of collapse, talk of rugby league taking care of its nurseries in the face of an advancing and cashed up AFL has become increasingly shrill.

However, while the two codes do battle over the hearts, minds and wallets of Western Sydney and South-East Queensland, a rugby league nursery rich in players, punters and potentially pocket is being ignored – its birthplace.

Currently IMG sports media owns the exclusive rights to the NRL outside of Australia and New Zealand, having signed a three-year deal in 2010.

While IMG have been successful in getting the game shown on televisions in Italy, the Middle East and USA, the UK have not seen a game of regular season NRL since 2009 when Setanta UK, which owned the rights at the time, went bust.

Sky Sports UK still shows State of Origin and the grand final and Premier Sport broadcasts six games per round.

A 2009 estimate by the UK office of statistics stated there were around 120,000 Australians living in the UK.

Because while there will always be a relatively small but constant stream of Australians and Kiwis living in the motherland looking to get their weekly fix of NRL, the UK is possibly the only other country in the entire world with a legitimate league competition and, therefore, legitimate local league fans.

These fans would be particularly interested in the Australian game at the moment with plenty of Englishmen making waves in the NRL.

Sam Burgess, Gareth Ellis and James Graham have all made the transition from Super League to NRL, while Burgess’s brothers Luke and George are also signed to Souths.

Meanwhile, Jack Reed, Gareth Widdop and Chris Heighington have all made the decision to represent England and as many as 40 other NRL players are in English coach Steve McNamara’s sights as future Lions based on either their heritage or place of birth.

Just as Australian interest in the English Premier League spikes whenever Aussies are performing well over there – there was a period in the mid-90s where Leeds United featuring Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka got more ink than the entire NSL – so too are the Poms interested in their own making good in the world’s toughest league competition.

Perhaps, then, the greatest sticking point in getting the NRL on the box in England is the five-year contract Super League signed with Sky Sports in 2011.

The ARLC has been given a clear mandate on their upcoming five-year deal – get a billion or don’t come home. Super League on the other hand signed their deal for an estimated £90million, which was a record deal and one hailed by Rugby Football League chairman Richard Lewis as being, “a tremendous outcome for the sport of rugby league”.

If the local game is only getting £90million (roughly AU$140million) over five years, the NRL broadcast rights would be significantly less.

Nevertheless, Panthers boss Phil Gould recently criticised the ARLC for their deal on gambling revenue, claiming the model the NRL are signed up to has cost them as much as $15 million a year.

“The NRL should have been looking at this as a new revenue stream… Retrospectively, it’s cost the game tens of millions of dollars not to be involved and whilst it opens opportunities for the future, we’ve missed the boat through a lack of action,” Gould said in The Age.

If the NRL TV rights are worth even half what the Super League rights fetched, that’s another $15 million a year boat being missed.

More importantly, it’s a golden opportunity to grow the game which is being ignored.

This post has been updated and edited following information provided by the NRL.

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The Crowd Says (45)

  • Editor

    April 4th 2012 @ 8:14am
    Tristan Rayner said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:14am | ! Report

    Hi all,

    The NRL has correctly pointed out that six weekly games are available via Premier Sport and others are available live on NRL TV.

    The article will remain for context purposes but comments are now closed.

    Thanks – Tristan (Ed.)

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2012 @ 11:53am
      The Cattery said | April 4th 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      Some hard, cold, verifiable facts? That’s no fun!! 🙂

    • April 4th 2012 @ 12:32pm
      Nathan of Perth said | April 4th 2012 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

      You actually got tapped on the shoulder by the NRL media dept? Eep.

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2012 @ 1:01pm
      The Cattery said | April 4th 2012 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

      It piqued the NRL’s interest – one could argue that’s a good outcome – we are all now better informed.

  • Roar Guru

    April 4th 2012 @ 8:47am
    The Cattery said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:47am | ! Report

    Australian Football has a solid and growing amateur presence throughout the UK, in fact, Port Melbourne has just recruited an English footballer.

    • April 4th 2012 @ 12:25pm
      cos789 said | April 4th 2012 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      What a stupid article. Ignores a few facts like NRL being available on Premier Sport.

      No ESL/Championship/Championship 1 equivelant. No World Club Challenge, Exiles, true test matches or World Cups.

      Go to any English RL forum and they all talk about the NRL – BECAUSE THEY WATCH IT!

      Never let the truth get in the way of a good ole Victorian bashing RL story though.

  • Roar Guru

    April 4th 2012 @ 9:13am
    The_Wookie said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

    Im not sure that getting it screened is winning, so much as an advantage. Rugby league exists quite well as a sport in the UK already without the NRL.

    Getting 4 games live, and a highlights package as well by the looks of it, is a damn good start – but winning? Not so much yet.

  • Roar Guru

    April 4th 2012 @ 9:35am
    peeeko said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:35am | ! Report Gets every game live streaming thru the net. It’s what I watch each week here in the USA and did last year in the uk. I also remember watching live games in Scotland last year on tv last season

    • April 4th 2012 @ 9:57am
      Rodney McDonell said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:57am | ! Report

      The quality of the vision on the net isn’t bad. I’ve watched a few replays through Telstra and its good! I good way to watch the footy for those overseas.

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2012 @ 10:21am
      The_Wookie said | April 4th 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report does the same thing in many countries

      • Roar Guru

        April 4th 2012 @ 10:50am
        peeeko said | April 4th 2012 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Very true wookie, their are a few others as well. Me and a mate from Melbourne get into work early every Friday and have the afl running on one screen and league on another. I got to watch the dragons game live last week while my friends in Sydney had to wait for the delayed telecast. I think fox soccer channel in the USA also shows a league, nrl and afl each week but only 1/2 games of each

        • Roar Guru

          April 4th 2012 @ 11:07am
          The_Wookie said | April 4th 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          ueah I think its fox soccer plus

          The three year deal features 2 matches a week of AFL, plus an AFL highlights package. The NRL gets the same deal plus State of Origin. They also scrfeen 30 matches of the Aleague this season. The packages are nearly identical, one wonders if they got a package deal through Foxtel.

          “It is available on various cable and satellite TV providers in the US including DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, Verizon Fios, DIsh Network and more.”

  • Roar Guru

    April 4th 2012 @ 9:37am
    peeeko said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

    Actually I’m pretty sure youre wrong. Channel 433 shows 6 live games a week in the Uk , on the bskyb platform called msk sports

    • April 4th 2012 @ 10:32am
      Whites said | April 4th 2012 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Yes. Kind of makes the whole article redundant. Also, Super League ratings have surged this year on Sky Sports.

  • April 4th 2012 @ 9:51am
    Cameron said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:51am | ! Report

    This article belongs under the league tab, for it should be of far more interest to the nrl and it’s supporters and also it should have a different title, the term ‘war’ is misplaced for this article.

    I would have thought there would be far more interest in how the new aleague club in west sydney would impact the Giants. Anyway, I’m sure there will be an articael or three about that Thursday

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