G’day from Scotland! Whilst it is summer here, I’ve seen the four seasons over the past hour, and have just had my fix of Australian news, especially all things RL. And what a massive couple of days it has been! When it rains, it pours. When ol’ Huey decides to dump it on theARLC/NRL, grab your floaties!
First up is the ARLC/NRL TV rights being successfullynegotiated. I refrain from calling it ‘successful’ just nowas I believe that one important stakeholder has missed out big time. Yep, it’s the fans. I am torn between two ideas of thought:
1. Rugby League has been severely underfunded and unappreciated for quite awhile now. As LeagueFreak™ stated in his article regarding the T.V. rights, theARLC/NRL has been frugal in it’s thinking and actions because of the lack of funds to spread amongst it’s various groups (NSWRL, QRL, CRL) and ARLC/NRLclubs. Some great initiatives have come through (I think of ‘Panthers on the Prowl’ run by the Panthers, using players as role models in local schools). Clubs won’t/can’t do these things because of the associatedcost. The ARLC/NRL hasn’t/couldn’t fund clubs enough that they could take these initiatives out to the wider public.
Now, flush with the cash, coupled with the possibility ofexpansion to 18 teams in the near future, hopefully we can see (all) players being paid what they are worth, and clubs able to interact in the local community to encourage current and future generations of fans to get involved. Overall, in the long term, this deal could be a great first step for Rugby League in Australia.
2. In the short term, however, I believe the ARLC could possibly have to tend with a backlash from fans regarding Channel 9 and FOXTEL outbidding Channels 7 and 10 for the rights. Why? Put simply, apart from a whole heap of money for the game, fans will continue to get screwed over in terms of coverage and a perceived arrogance towards our game unless there are serious changes.
There is currently anger about most coverage aspects. Friday night usually has the Broncos vs. someone else and very little of some others. The idea of two Friday night games is, I think, a great idea, allowing QLD and NSW teams an opportunity to play in front of a wider audience, and after a good game, (hopefully) a lead-in to the second game. Fans win. Nine wins. ARLC/NRLwins. Unfortunately, too much power wielded by Nine means only select teams get a regular call-up. If we want the ARLC/NRL to continue to succeed and grow, Friday night needs to be shared amongst all, as it gives all clubs the opportunity to appeal to fans and sponsors. Whilst not a determining factor, teams including the Broncos get a leg-up through this extra exposure (sponsorship deals for both club and individual players).
Add Super Saturday, a boon to those with Pay-TV. Three straight games. A fan’s dream. A real dream, however, for those many who can’t/won’t pay for the privilege.Then we have Monday night. What is the graveyard shift for many teams is a ratings winner for FOXTEL. It is true that teams receive a certain amount of compensation for playing on Monday. But at the moment, some teams lose out more than others in terms of crowds and, again,sponsorship opportunities. Fans with families are also usually put out with the later kick-off on Monday, knowing that kids, work and other commitments are only a short few hours away. The introduction of a set schedule might hopefully help fans plan ahead and increase attendance, but that is yet to be seen.
And after all this, what do we get from David Gyngell, boss of Nine? “…We just bought the game,” he states.Who does he think he is? He goes on to say that he is“unapologetic” about the unfair scheduling, and will continue to broadcast what he can make the most moneyoff. The latest reports have told us Channel 10 was willing to have a live game shown every night Friday through to Monday. Four nights of live action! Compared to the one night guarantee we have from Nine. Some have said the ARLC has ‘sold it’s soul’ to achieve this mammoth deal. I don’t think it’s quite that bad, but what happens in a couple of years when scheduling is still a hot topic? The best thing going for the ARLC is that they managed to get the ‘right of reply’ in favour of Nine taken off the next negotiating table.
Come on ARLC, you’re half way there. You’ve got a great financial reward for the players and clubs ofgreatest game in the world, now let’s see if you can get an even better deal next time to ensure as many people as possible can see it, and their teams, each week.
In other news, Anthony Minichello has received 4 weeks for his high shot on Josh Dugan. It amounts to basically “Let him on through then, but make sure he knows the next time he does something, he might get a stern talking to”. Not much needs to be said about this one. I know he has his 250th game coming up real soon (and, admitted, a well-deserved milestone for a good player) but this is a joke of a decision, and has eroded all confidence in the judiciary system as it stand so far. Even players, like Frank Pritchard using Twitter, have questioned the system. And poor Travis Burns is packing his bags for the U.K. Well done guys.
Three referees in the video ref was trialled a few weeks back with success. Maybe it’s time to train specialised ‘video’ referees to ensure they are able to cover all games, and possibly look at introducing video software similar to ‘Hawkeye’ as in cricket, which is able to discern movement clearly in slow-motion. This would give referees another view of the action, and hopefully prevent the dreaded ‘between-frame’ decisions that occur. It is expensive (tennis sources have quoted around $100,000 to outfit a court, whereas some soccer teams are supposedly paying closer to $200,000 to fit their stadiums with the cameras), but we have the money and means now. Even if it is a trial for a year, we need to start becoming more proactive. Being reactive to situations has seen the ARLC/NRL allow problems with refereeing, player (and club) behaviour and scheduling become gnaw away at the great things it has achieved.
Finally, it was quite a shock to learn of Luke Lewis and his recent discovery of thyroid cancer. Cancer is a bitch, and has destroyed many lives, leaving pain and suffering for friends and family long after someone has passed. I hope that Luke has the opportunity, through his footy and life thereafter, to be a spokesperson and advocate for those who afflicted by this terrible illness. I also hope that the ARLC/NRL, who does fantastic work and promotion for women and indigenous causes, can aid Luke, or anyone, on increasing awareness and checks for this kind of thing. In Luke’s case, an injury to his neck forced him to get a scan that revealed the problem. No neck injury, and who knows how long it could have gone on for, and what type of effect it would have had. Crazy times for the ARLC/NRL.
OK folks, that’s it for me. A good one to you and yours and hopefully get back to you soon.
P.S. Speaking of getting back, I don’t want to sound needy, but if you enjoy reading, or agree (or disagree for sure) with what I rant about, or think of something for me to tackle, please drop me a line via the website or Twitter (@gong_panther).
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