Always Follow The Money

Rugby League is a funny sport in that, it is controlled by just a few countries, and yet there is a will to have it become a true international democracy, even though there is no way in hell that will ever happen!

In the past, many in England have felt that the international schedule is set by NRL clubs. This is of course, ridiculous. NRL clubs allowed their players to head over to England for tour after tour as the RFL tried to dig its way out of the financial mess the 2000 World Cup left them in.

Things are changing now though, and to be honest, the rest of the Rugby League playing world is going to have to cop these changes on the chin.

In the past, Australia has been kept in line by officials in England and New Zealand. I always remember when the ARL canceled the 2001 Kangaroo Tour over terrorism fears. They called a press conference, and the tour was off. Dead and buried.

Maurice Lindsey got on the phone. At the time, he was not in any official capacity running the game in England, but he knew what a disaster it would be for Rugby League in Great Britain if Australia didn’t tour.

It is one of the great sporting mysteries what was said by Lindsey during his call to the ARL….but history shows the ARL scrambled to announce the Kangaroo Tour was back on, there were no fears about the safety of players, and than you to the RFL for having the Kangaroo’s over!

Now, here is the problem that faces anyone looking to strong arm the new Australian Rugby League administration that will come into being a few months from now.

The Australian game will be earning so much money that they won’t actually have to give a damn about anyone elses concerns.

I don’t think we will see Australia ever turn its back on international football, if only because it wants to have that lure of test football for its elite players. Still, the idea that an organization that will be earning $200 million dollars a year just through TV rights alone, if going to be dictated to by countries where the game is, at best, semi professional, is fanciful in the extreme.

Basically Australia will be able to do what ever it likes, with or without the Rugby League International Federation because they will be able to buy their way out of any problems.

With that in mind, I would then ask, should we have a false democracy within the RLIF, or should we look towards a different set up that embraces the money and power the game in Australia will soon have?

Considering many NRL players come from New Zealand, where the NZRL runs on a shoestring budget, would it be the worst thing in the world if the game in Australia started to fund the NZRL and help it develop its competitions in the hope that it would produce even more talent?

Lets go further…

In Great Britain, you have a massive, ready made television audience. You have a decent sized player base, however it does not turn out anywhere near the number of decent players that it should.

Would it be such a bad idea to have the Australia game fund game wide reforms of Rugby League in Great Britain? Imagine having experts brought in to clear up a range of issues that plague the game in Great Britain.

A restructure of junior development pathways. A new salary cap auditing system. There may be changes to season structure or even the way clubs are run. All of it funded by the Australian game and its massive financial power.

Can you imagine what it would be like for Administrators of respective competitions in the United States, France, PNG or the Pacific Islands to have the tiniest slither of a percentage of the money the NRL will be making from 2013 onwards?

Where once Australia just didn’t have the money to help out, now it would have enough money to fund the game in its entirety in some countries! Hell if you went to the RFL and offered them half a percent of the NRL’s next broadcasting deal (Which would equal $1 million dollars), even they couldn’t afford to be dismissive of what you had in mind. At the very least they hear you out before saying no thanks!

That type of financial muscle is what the game in Australia will now have. While the vast majority of the money will be soaked up by NRL clubs and the game overall in Australia, it only takes tiny amounts of that money to be put aside to make a huge difference to Rugby League across the world.

With all that in mind, how does a Rugby League International Federation meeting get run from 2013 onwards? How does France, Lebanon, PNG, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and the like sit across the table from Australia and say “No”?

Will we actually get to a point where we see a Rugby League International Federation restructure? A full time headquarters in Australia. Decisions made in Australia. The use of a central hub where by the clout of the game in Australia is used to help negotiate sponsorships and television deals on behalf of other Rugby League playing nations.

Would that be the ideal international administration going forward, rather than continuing under the pretense that the votes of other RLIF member nations have any baring on what Australia is going to end up doing anyway?

In the same way that Basketball Australia is unable to dictate to the NBA, a lot of Rugby League administrations around the world are going to be faced with the prospect of negotiating with a member on the RLIF board who they can not possibly bargain with.

I for one would rather see a true international administration in place, rather than have a false international governing body that is there to rubber stamp what Australia does anyway.

I think it would be wise for the international game to have a full time administration, based in the financial hub of the game, that can use all the resources at its immediate disposal to help promote the game across the globe.

When a nation is in need of assistance, it doesn’t need to go through a political process where by it needs to ask other struggling nations to put there concerns on the back burner. It goes straight to a purely administrative arm who’s job it is to help out in any way it possible can.

Give me that over a false administration every single day!

Rugby League is facing some very big changes over the next few years, and it will all come from the financial gold mine the NRL is about to hit. No other Rugby League playing nation is even near the ballpark of the figures that will soon be thrown around in the Australian game.

When it comes to power, follow the money…

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