Looking At How News Limited Will Now Treat Rugby League

For well over a decade News Limited was part of the business. A 50% owner of the NRL, heavily involved in broadcasting rights, they had their fingers in all the pies and made hundreds of millions of dollars out of the game.

Now, they are no longer at the table when it comes to the decision making process. They are no longer shareholders in the NRL. Make no mistake, they will still make millions out of Rugby League, it provides them with so much content, however now it won’t be as easy to negotiate incredibly favorable deals on its on behalf and then taking a cut of its own broadcasting deals it makes with the NRL.

So, will this all change the way News Ltd treats Rugby League, especially in its newspapers and online publications?

As soon as the Independent Commission took over the game we saw some pressure being applied as well as a hysterical hit piece written by Rebecca Wilson which stated that no one except News Ltd could run Rugby League (Okay….).

Through the Daily Telegraph and the flow on effects through the media that come from that publication, News Ltd has the ability to push different causes. On top of that we have seen actual journalism in all forms of media make way for sensationalism and reactionary reports. People don’t but newspapers to read about bills that pass through parliament, but they will react with outrage that Kim Kardashian is flogging handbags while on a tourist visa. That shit gets your clicks on a news web site these days.

I think the first real gauge of how News Ltd treats Rugby League in the “new era” will be when the decision is handed down on the NRL’s next round of expansion.

You can spin it how ever you like, but the fact is that Sydney drives Rugby League. The ebb and flow of opinions in Sydney about the game has huge repercussions on the game world wide. If you think this isn’t the case than ask what happens when a few Sydney clubs decide the World Sevens isn’t worth the hassle…

The only club that has a foot in the door to the Sydney media market is the North Sydney Bear bid to get back into the NRL. They are calling themselves the Central Coast bit team, but its Bears colours, the Bears logo, they claim they will draw sponsorship and fans from Sydney, oh and they want to play some games at North Sydney oval.

You all know my stance on this issue. Expanding the NRL to North Sydney and Gosford is the most ridiculous idea in the games history.

The thing is, the Daily Telegraph can sell a lot of newspapers and get a lot of easy content by getting behind the Bears cause. This will have an effect on the NRL and it will apply pressure to some administrators, despite the fact that on basic numbers the Bear bid doesn’t even come close to any other bid you want to put on the table.

Perth might as well be a world away. Central Queensland? Who in Sydney honestly cares? Brisbane is not a factor because the Courier Mail has that covered. The likes of PNG or a bid from Wellington, meh.

I don’t think the NRL is even contemplating adding another club to the Sydney/Central Coast region, and if the decision comes down that the Bears have not been given an NRL licence, I expect the Daily Telegraph to milk the outrage for all its work.

They are a business. That is what they do. I’m not saying its wrong, good luck to them. I’m just looking at if their coverage of the game will change.

Obviously when decisions are now made, News ltd now has the ability to shout down the entire process because they are not involved. Its hard to write about what a terrible decision has been made when your boss was at the table making that decision.

In the past we saw News Ltd push the NRL’s decisions in a favorable light. They don’t have to do that any more. Meanwhile over at the Sydney Morning Herald, the Independent Commission will be able to do no wrong for a while at least. After all, they aren’t the evil giant beat that is News Ltd. Some SMH writers will be flat out having anything to write about now!

What I’m most interested in is how the broadcasting deal pans out. Understandably, after years of favorable deals, News Ltd isn’t going to be all that comfortable is the NRL starts demanding they pay through the nose for their slice of the TV rights pie.

Media companies can say that other deals dont filter down to their writers all they like. I honestly do believe that writers are not asked to write things on behalf of their employer. However, if you get a bunch of writers in an environment where everyone around them is talking about how they hate puppy dogs and kittens….eventually you’re gonna star reading a lot about those bastard puppy dogs and shit bag kittens!

So how this all plays out, and the reaction of News Ltd to a Rugby League competition they have no direct control over, it is fairly interesting to me.

Like it or not (And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t worry me either way) Rugby League and News Ltd will walk hand in hand well into the future.

One is a provider of content that is a proven seller. The other is a media organisation with the ability to turn that content into cash. Cash that the game of Rugby League relies on.

They may no longer be at the table making decisions, and looking to protect their considerable investment, but make no mistake, News Ltd will still play a very important role in Rugby League. How they react to being even slightly out of the loop though is anyone guess.

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