Channel 9 CEO and Sydney Roosters supporter David Gyngell has told the Sydney Daily Telegraph that it is imperative that the NRL retains Sonny Bill Williams in the face of the AFL’s move Buddy Franklin to Sydney to play with AFL team the Sydney Swans.
Gyngell mentioned the boost to crowds and television ratings that the presence of Sonny Bill Williams had given the Sydney Roosters and made a compelling case about the need for the game to retain stars as they are the ones that drive the games popularity.
A lot of people will jump on David Gyngell’s comments and say that he is biased, looking to boost the chances of the clubs he supports, and that as a broadcaster he should keep his nose out of the games business and look after his own issues at Channel 9. The problem is….David Gyngell makes some really good points!
Even if you hate Sonny Bill Williams and the ridiculous circus that surrounds him you can not deny that he has been an easy marketing opportunity for the game of Rugby League. It is also hard to argue against the pure number of extra fans that the Sydney Roosters have drawn through the gates because of him or the big television ratings that have followed him for key games this season.
We were all glued to our seats for his first match in the NRL after returning from Rugby Union. We couldn’t wait to see what happened when later in the season he faced the Bulldogs for the first time after walking out on the club.
You might not like Sonny Bill Williams at all. You may hate the way he goes about his business. You can not deny that thousands of others love him and want to watch him play.
My argument for a long time has been a really simple one. For all of the Rugby League officials that have said what a great guy he is, that have praised his professionalism, that have mentioned his charity work and how good he is with fans in general, and who have talked about the economic boost he has given to the game this season, none of them have been willing to step up and make Sonny Bill Williams an offer for what they say he is worth.
My opinion is, officials should stop talking. If Sonny Bill Williams is worth that much to the game of Rugby League, PAY HIM!
David Gyngell makes a really good point about what sells as far as television ratings go. He mentions that people tune in to watch stars, they don’t just tune in to watch the game. This is something I tend to agree with, especially in this day and age where the cult of personality is so strong.
People will watch anything to see a headliner. It is the reason why old Rugby League players can draw a very good crowd when they decide they want to do boxing. Hell, Sonny Bill Williams pulls on the gloves himself and people will fill and arena for that! Its something that has been proven time and time again.
Over the course of a Rugby League season we see a number of close games. The really great games though are the ones in which the star players either stand tall and win the match, or fail miserably and choke when it matters.
Rugby League is lucky in that it is a game that produces stars. People need to remember that Rugby League made Sonny Bill Williams the star he is today. Sure there will be more stars that come along in the future, and no doubt they will get paid what they are worth. For now though, Rugby League has Sonny Bill Williams, and as a Penrith Panthers fan it helps my club indirectly if he remains with the Sydney Roosters and boosts crowds and television ratings.
Some people will say that its not up to the NRL to worry about television ratings. That is just wrong. The NRL is making hundreds of millions of dollars every year out of the its ability to rate on TV. If ratings go up, the game can be assured of even more money during the next broadcasting deal. If ratings go down it will be a lot harder to justify an increase in money broadcasters will pay on the next deal.
The Australian Rugby League Commission and the NRL itself need to look at every way they can improve the game, improve participation numbers, improve crowds and improve television ratings. Its not about the game not being able to afford the money, it can afford the money with ease. If the NRL could simply buy clubs an extra 5,000 attendees as games, it would. It would see that as an investment.
That is what Sonny Bill Williams is. He is an investment. A block of attendance increases, television ratings and free publicity in the media. If you ask me it is a very easy decision to make. The NRL should go out of its way to make sure Sonny Bill Williams simply can not turn down the money on offer to stay in Rugby League.
Sure, right now its Sonny Bill Williams and the Roosters that will benefit, but in the future it might be the superstar player at your club that the NRL makes sure stays. After all, do you think the NRL would sit back and allow Greg Inglis to be lost to Rugby League and the South Sydney Rabbitohs right now?
Other sports are going out of their way to make sure they put star players in key markets. While the AFL has well and truly jumped the shark and decided to allow some clubs to spend more on players than others, you can not deny that these marquee signings have helped other sports market their game much more effectively.
Rugby League is not immune to these effects. Either Rugby League needs to start looking at ways it can attract and keeps stars in the sport, or it will fall behind other sports who don’t have to think for a second about doing the same thing.
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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