The Last Rugby Union World Cup Before Australia Becomes A Minnow

Welcome to the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup. The last World Cup in which Australia will compete as anything other than a minnow.

You see, Rugby Union in Australia has a problem. It is a game that prides itself on retaining its supposed class superiority and this has seen the game remain marginalized across the wider Australian sporting audience.

After trying to break into the mainstream sporting market by buying a handful of Rugby League players, the game of Rugby Union in Australia found that by the close of the decade, it was less popular than it had ever been before.

That is bad enough in itself, but the real hammer blow is set to come in 2013. That is the year in which the National Rugby League is set to commence its next broadcasting deal.

Conservative estimates suggest the NRL will earn a $1 billion dollars over 5 years. The more generous estimates put the figure at $1.4 billion dollars over five years.

During this five year contract the NRL is looking to expand first grade squads from 25 to 30 players per club. They will also expand the competition by two extra teams. That means the NRL alone will have 110 extra first grade places available by at least the end of the next broadcasting deal.

Then you have to look at the rise in the NRL salary cap. Already NRL clubs are starting to make offers to some of Australian Rugby Union’s highest profile players. As the NRL salary cap rises in line with the rise in the broadcasting deal, the money available and the simple need for talent will see the then 18 NRL clubs strip the ARU of any of its talent.

It isn’t even about wanting marque players either. NRL clubs will be able to throw money at Australian Rugby Union players just to fill out their squads.

All that and we haven’t even touched on the money the NRL makes through gate receipts, merchandising or sponsorship.

The NRL is set to become nothing short of a juggernaut, and keep in mind, this isn’t just a one off bonus for the game or a lucky break. This is a sustainable business model that will only reap more money in future broadcasting deals.

So sit back and enjoy it. The last time Australia competes in the Rugby Union World Cup as one of the teams that actually have some sort of chance of winning it.

It was fun while it lasted…


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