The First Day Of True Independence For Rugby League

It took a long time but they finally got it done. The old ARL has been dissolved, News Limited has left the building and now the Independent Commission is finally in charge under the name of the Australian Rugby League Commission.

The handover occurred yesterday at Moore Park in Sydney where the new HQ for Rugby League was opened. It is a moment to mark down in history for the game as now, Rugby League guides its own path towards the future.

I don’t expect we will see any huge changes any time soon. The last thing the Independent Commission wants to do right now is rock the boat. There are a few important decisions they will have to make this season and I think its important the ARLC is decisive when it makes these decisions.

The Broadcasting Contract
This should not be rushed. As of February 1st exclusive negotiations have started with Channel 9 and Fox Sports. After 90 days these negotiations can be opened up to all parties, something I fully expect to happen.

I want the ARLC to get as much advice as possible on the next broadcasting deal and be willing to think outside the box in terms of past broadcasting deals.

I think the online broadcasting of games needs to be one area the ARLC looks at very closely. They need to make a decision on taking a lot money for a restrictive system, or taking less money to have a more open system that would gain a greater number of subscriber, and in turn give existing sponsors greater exposure.

There needs to be more games on Free To Air television and we are going to see one all mighty battle between networks to slice the pie up. I’ve always felt that Channel 10 would try to get Monday Night Football for its One HD Channel, however recent ownership changes tell me that is less likely to happen now. Packer and Murdoch won’t want to canalization their Pay TV asset’s.

I think we will see Channel 7 end up with State Of Origin and International rights. To take everything off of Channel 9’s hands would be too big of an investment. However, if they took the “Jewel in the Crown”, that would do just nicely.

As for Fox Sports, they could end up being the big loser in all of this unless they bring a lot of money to the table. What needs to be remembered is that Fox Sports relies heavily on viewers the NRL brings. However, even the highest rated games on Fox Sports don’t bring the same exposure that Free To Air TV provides. Sponsors love nothing more than exposure, and there is going to be a lot of number crunching to find the right balance between all of these broadcasting deals.

Expansion Decision
The NRL will be expanding in the next few years and I think the ARLC needs to come out in the next two months and make a firm decisions on where they want the next two teams to be.

Perth will be one team, there is no doubt about that. A big city and a new time zone that works brilliantly for Sunday night on the east coast. The WA Government has openly been talking about WHEN they get an NRL team. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Perth Reds get an NRL license in the next month or so, I think this is a done deal just needing to be signed off on.

As for the next team it should all come down to how much they add to the games broadcasting contract and how sustainable they are. I expect the second team to be based in Brisbane for that reason.

The important thing is that the ARLC makes a decision early and allows these news clubs to get themselves ready to enter the competition.

As for Gosford, the NRL needs to become a national competition that targets big media markets. Gosford is a little town with an undersized stadiums. Its based between two privately owned teams who will not be pushing to have another club on their doorstep. The last thing we need is another club in NSW.

The Making Of David Gallop
Since becoming CEO of the NRL, David Gallop has had a lot of major issues to face. Overall, he has done pretty well. However, keep in mind that, Gallop has never had the ability to make major decisions on his own. He was always the middle man between the ARL and News Limited and trying to get both of them to agree on anything was basically impossible.

Now, Gallop only has to answer to the ARLC and they have already stated that he will finally have the power he needs to do his job.

David Gallop was emotional at the handover for power yesterday. I suspect the knowledge that he can finally make some changes was a part of this.

Imagine is this was the making of David Gallop. If the criticisms he has received in the past for what he did and did not do were all forgotten over the next few years as he stepped up and showed what he is capable of doing now that he doesn’t have to negotiate every time he makes a change to the game?

I think re-signing Gallop was a smart move. The game needed stability at the NRL level. The NRLC has said that everyone is on notice and that include Gallop. I think we will see Gallop be very proactive from now on because of this.

International Rugby League
The ARLC needs to do one very important thing very early. That is to make sure everyone at every level of the game knows that international Rugby League will not be anything less than a top priority.

They will be under pressure to water down involvement in the international game. They will have clubs telling them they are not happy with the work load on players. The ARLC needs to not cop any of this rubbish and do everything they can to make international Rugby League better than it currently is.

I would love to see them change State Of Origin eligibility laws so that you play for the state you were born in. Using junior football to determine what state a player is eligible for is so out dated its ridiculous. Any player that wants to piss and moan about having to play for a state they don’t want to represent can watch at home on TV is they feel that strongly about it.

Most importantly, it will stop the push by the QRL in particular to entire non Australian players to turn their backs on their country of origin and turn out for them.

At international level, it should be a similar story. The reason many see international Rugby League as a joke is because players can basically pick and chose who they play for.

I dont care what other sports do! Why can’t Rugby League’s big selling point be that it is a sport that is one of the very few that has a real international set up with no country swapping and genuine international teams?

People want to see a bunch of dudes from Australia play against dudes from New Zealand. They don’t want to see mixed sides that are only defined by the badge sown on a jersey they happen to be wearing this time around.

The Off Season
It is all about selling content, any content, and that is a lesson the Soccer A League and Big Bash Cricket competitions have both shown us.

The ARLC needs to look at putting together content it can sell during the long off season. Whether that ends up being a couple of RL9’s competitions, Touch Football competitions or what ever. There is an appetite out there for people to something different over summer when once Cricket were out there all on its own. The ARLC needs to capitalize on this and open new revenue streams for the game.

A Long Term Plan For The Game
Goals need to be set. Big goals. Goals that right now might seem far off, but that over time can happen if the game keeps moving in the right direction.

I’d like to see the ARLC looking at long term expansion goals. I want to see them planning for expansion into Adelaide and Wellington when the 2018 broadcasting deal ends. I want them to talk about the goals of having a team in PNG and South Africa beyond that.

I want to see big idea’s, new idea’s and aggressive thinking on what the game can achieve once we get the base of the game strong. That should happen once the next television deal kicks in. Now is the time that Rugby League can walk its own path.

Rugby League used to be a sport with big idea’s it wasn’t scared to talk about and pursue. It used to be a front runner that other sporting organisations looked at enviously for its fearlessness and forward thinking.

I want to see those days return under the ARLC.

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