Over the course of the World Cup Australian Rugby League and National Rugby League officials spent time in the UK meeting with their UK counterparts from various sporting codes. It allowed Australian officials to spend well over a month on an extended fact finding mission they normally wouldn’t have had the time to complete.
Out of those meetings has come the idea that a State Of Origin match could be played at Wembley Stadium.
Playing a State Of Origin game at Wembley Stadium is something I’ve been talking about for years. A big venue like Wembley Stadium is always on the lookout to host big events. There is little doubt that a State Of Origin match would sell out at Wembley Stadium so all parties would obviously show interest in making it happen.
There are a number of major issues to overcome though. I think it is possible to make it happen. So lets have a look at the issues and possible ways they could be worked out.
Why Would There Be A Push To Play A State Of Origin Game At Wembley Stadium?
Money. Just money. Nothing else.
London is a huge media market and one of the biggest corporate bases in the world. It is home to a fantastic stadium that would sell out for a State Of Origin match in no time at all.
To have 90,000 attendee’s paying for their tickets in British Pounds, to have a local broadcasters in the UK carrying the match, to be able to get UK based sponsorship money for what would be a very unique event….its all about the money!
The ARL would probably look to use the game as a way to get a foot in the door with big sponsors and UK broadcasters in an effort to make money money down the track, not only for State Of Origin games, but possibly NRL games and Test matches as well.
How Would It Effect The Players?
State Of Origin players get a match payment of $30,000 per game. When you are getting paid that type of money its hard to argue about the travel time to venues.
Players would be looked after. I don’t think they would mind at all. In fact I think State Of Origin players would love to play a game in front of a sellout crowd at Wembley Stadium.
How Would Australian Broadcasters React?
As long as Australian broadcasters were still able to broadcast the game across Australia at a reasonable time, I don’t think they care where the game is played!
Obviously they don’t want to have to take on any extra costs. You would think that the UK broadcaster of the match would carry the production costs. It may actually end up being cheaper for the Australian broadcaster!
To have a State Of Origin game kicking off at on a Wednesday at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard time it would have to kick off at 11am in London on a Tuesday morning. That is far from an ideal time for anyone looking to attend the match.
If the match was able to fall on a public holiday in the UK that would help. If it was held on a Saturday it would be ideal. That would need a huge change to the Australian schedule though and that would also require the approval of Australian broadcasters.
Jet lag sucks. The generally accepted time it takes to get over jet lag is one day for every hour of time zone you cross from your original destination.
I tend to think that a State Of Origin game would be a bit of a hit and run mission for the players. I think they would turn up a few days before the match, play, and then head home to Australia as soon as possible. They may only be in England for around about 4 days.
How that would effect them in terms of jet lag is anyone’s guess. Because the game would need to be played on a morning UK time there would be no need for State Of Origin players to adjust to UK time.
I think the bigger effect would be how players would cope once they were back in Australia.
Is It A Good Or A Bad Idea?
It is hard to argue against the move is the game made a huge amount of money. I don’t think we would ever see Wembley Stadium become a regular venue for State Of Origin games but there is certainly scope to play two or three games there every decade.
The bigger picture would see the ARL playing regular events at the venue to generate more income. That can only be a good thing.
Yes it would deprive Australian based supporters an opportunity to attend a game but people shouldn’t lose focus on the big picture. The money generated from these type of ventures would flow back into the Australian game.
The Effect On Rugby League In The UK
This is where it becomes interesting…
If the ARL starts to play regular events at Wembley Stadium and make links with sponsors and broadcasters they would very quickly becomes an organisation within the UK that people would start to look towards for guidance.
If the ARL was able to make a success out of playing just a few games at Wembley stadium, what could they do with the London Broncos? What could they do if they used their corporate link to bring money money into Rugby League in the UK?
At that point, could we see the ARL set up a management team in London that could becomes an administration for Rugby League across Great Britain? It is interesting to think about…
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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