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RA confirms national club competition in the works; NRC future unclear

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Rugby Australia has today sensationally confirmed media speculation that a new national club competition was potentially in the works as the sport’s governing body works on the next domestic broadcast deal.

The news comes less than a month after Fox Sports reportedly walked away from negotiations over the next broadcast period, although RA CEO Raelene Castle today said she was confident Foxtel would return to the table during the tender process.

News Corp papers put out an explosive report last night that claimed the National Rugby Championship would be scrapped after this season, with a merged Shute Shield and Queensland Premier Rugby competition – with promotion and relegation – to replace it when the new deal kicks in next year. Teams in Canberra and Victoria would potentially also be included in this new competition, as would the recently-dumped Penrith Emus.

Incredibly, the statement from RA released this afternoon appears to confirm this report.

The full statement reads as follows;

Rugby Australia is set to begin its market process for the 2021-2025 media rights in the coming days.

It has been reported in media today that a new national club competition could form part of the ‘whole of Rugby’ package of rights to be presented to broadcasters.

Rugby Australia wishes to confirm that it has investigated the establishment of a national club competition ahead of its media rights negotiations, however the final competition format will not be determined until further consultation with the successful broadcaster, the State and Territory member unions, and the clubs.

The National Rugby Championship (NRC) will continue in its current format in 2020 and continues to be part of the discussion for 2021 and beyond.

In any case, Castle remains confident a TV deal will be struck and that Fox will reopen negotiations soon.

“We went through a negotiating process with them (Fox Sports) through their exclusive negotiating period,” Castle told AAP.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get to a place we were both comfortable with. So now we’re in tender and we would expect that as a market process they would step into that process.”

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“This is a decision that is about generating the most financially beneficial outcome we can for the game.”