By PHIL ROTHFIELD
Original story located here
FIVE years ago the independent commission released a strategic plan to grow the game of rugby league.
Crowds would average 20,000 by 2017. (They have fallen 20 per cent short with the average now around 16,000 in the past two seasons and no sign of growth, especially in Sydney).
Also $200 million would be available for investment in key projects. (This money is not available).
Club membership would reach 400,000 by 2017. (It’s now 270,000).
The point of this column is not to criticise the NRL but to look at the only way to achieve the goals from the strategic plan. And that’s by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg putting expansion back on the table.
This rubbish that the game cannot afford another two teams comes from ill-informed officials who have not even bothered to look at the benefits of adding a Perth team and a second side in Brisbane.
The NRL would get an extra $50 million a year from the television networks by paying for nine games instead of eight each weekend.
The current $2 billion broadcast deal averages out at $2 million per game.
The NRL would give the new clubs $12 million each in grants (the recently negotiated 30 per cent more than the salary cap).
That leaves the game with an extra $125 million over the five years of the broadcast deal from having nine games once the new clubs have been paid.
By introducing a Perth side, the NRL gets closer to being a national competition which would attract bigger corporate dollars.
It also importantly opens up a new timeslot for the broadcasters. Sydney clubs would get less night football and more of the fan-friendly afternoon kick-off times.
It would allow east coast kick-offs on a Sunday at 2pm and 4pm before a 6pm game out of Perth.
With the Western Force set to be scrapped from the Super Rugby competition, the timing is perfect.
Having a second Brisbane side would take away the Broncos’ ridiculously unfair financial advantage over their 15 rivals.
We would not have to watch them every Thursday or Friday night and they would have to cope with the odd five-day turnaround.
The second Brisbane side would share the prime-time kick-off to give broadcasters the ratings they want across Queensland. It would mean Australia’s best rugby league venue Suncorp Stadium would be used every weekend, not once a fortnight.
An additional side north of the border would provide competition for the corporate dollar in Brisbane and not leave everything for the Broncos, who turn over almost $20 million a year more than rivals from the one-club, one city scenario.
The salary cap fiasco is going to force clubs to offload star players in the near future.
It has taken the NRL until now to reveal the 2018 cap will be just $8.3 million.
Some clubs have already signed players thinking it would be $10 million.
The two new clubs would open up great opportunities for the players. Anyone who says there is not enough talent for 18 clubs hasn’t done their research.
Melbourne Storm came into the competition in 1998 and won a premiership the following year. There are too many borderline NRL players who don’t get an opportunity with 16 clubs.
Expansion side Melbourne Storm won a premiership in their second season, in 1999.
Potential increase to the game’s average attendances.
Sydney crowds have been on a gradual decline for three decades. Now they have to compete with GWS and the Swans, Sydney FC and the Wanderers.
Most of the Sydney clubs are absolutely clueless about promoting home games.
They boast of increased membership but ignore the fact they are only picking up already rusted-on fans at reduced ticket prices.
Perth and Brisbane would surely attract bigger crowds than the 10,000 odd we often see in Sydney.
For too long expansion talks have been put on the backburner. Now is the time to strike. The aim should be to make it happen in 2020.
And it would at least give us hope of delivering the goals from the strategic plan.