Foxtel boss Patrick Delany has backed plans for a second Brisbane team to create an “explosive” Broncos rivalry as a former NRL powerbroker declared expansion will happen in 2023.
Delany, also the chief executive of Fox Sports, is one of the most powerful men in Australian sports broadcasting, playing a key role in the NRL’s record $1.8 billion deal which expires at the end of 2022.
Now, as ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys hatches plans for a 17th NRL team, Delany has given compelling insights on the power of expansion and why a second Brisbane team can be a coup for rugby league.
Delany’s support for a fourth Queensland team is an emphatic sign Fox Sports will head to the negotiating table later this year ready to back V’landys’ vision for another Brisbane team to rival the Broncos.
“I would like to see a second Brisbane team because it brings intra-city rivalry opportunities with the Broncos,” Delany told The Sunday Mail in a rare interview.
“The Broncos are the Broncos. They are a huge brand. But if you have a second Brisbane organisation with another tribe and you build a rivalry like the old ‘Silvertails versus the Fibros’ with Manly and Wests, it adds to the whole excitement of the NRL.
“If you look at the proportion of population between NSW and Queensland, quite clearly one (NRL) team in Brisbane is under-serving.”
The prospect of the NRL going backwards – losing money on its existing $1.8b deal – is real and would be disastrous for the code.
V’landys believes a new 17th team, and one based in Brisbane, can be a key plank in providing fresh brand value, market vibrancy and content for broadcasters Fox Sports and Channel 9.
South Sydney general manager Shane Richardson, the former NRL strategy chief, understands the code’s footprint better than most. He was heavily involved in the NRL’s analysis of expansion and was keen to give the green light to a second Brisbane team as far back as 2015.
This time, Richardson believes another team in south-east Queensland will be alive and kicking as part of the new TV rights deal in 2023.
“Yes, I believe a second Brisbane team will come in for 2023. It’s happening,” Richardson said.
“I was at the NRL and I did all the work on the game’s footprint in 2015. I met all the Bombers guys and went through all the plans of the respective bid teams. I know the history.
“There’s no doubt the Brisbane market is ready for expansion.”
Delany, who presided over the creation of Fox’s successful dedicated AFL and NRL footy channels, says the birth of the Western Sydney Wanderers in soccer’s A-League in 2012 is evidence an NRL rivalry in Brisbane will take off.
“If you bring another Brisbane team into the NRL, you get the ability to add rivalry with the Broncos and that will help the NRL,” he said.
“The current fans of NRL are well served and have plenty of money to be nourished by a tribe. In that regard, the homeland of NRL is NSW and Queensland.
“As far as expansion goes, the principle should be that you put the teams where there is either a fan base or a tribe or the new region is capable of building a tribe.
“In soccer, we have seen the great rise of the Western Sydney Wanderers. Their birth gave power to a great rivalry with Sydney FC … who would have thought there was that explosive fan base with the Wanderers?
“Adding Western Sydney in the A-League added to the power of soccer in Sydney, it didn’t split the audience or fan base.
“As a broadcaster, we want to serve fans and it’s not much help to us if it takes us, or the NRL, 10 years to establish a fan base.
“You see that in many sports where there are underling teams and it doesn’t help the broadcast.
“We basically want high-quality sport, well supported by fans, well attended by fans and that is able to be amplified and advertised by the broadcast. That brings more fans in and I’m sure Hugh Marks (Nine Network boss) would agree from a Channel 9 perspective.”
Asked if a second Brisbane team and 17 clubs will help the NRL exceed their $1.8b deal for 2023 and beyond, Delany said: “It depends, you have to look at the whole package.
“Are you splitting the pie, the same-sized pie into 17 pieces … or are you creating more value by adding better value franchises. I don’t know. We need to look at how it all works.
“Can you endlessly consider that adding changes is adding to a sport’s value when you might have got a peak value?
“It’s a complicated one and not one I will take up right now, especially when we are fighting a battle on a number of fronts.
“But in terms of expansion, so long as a new NRL team is put in the right place, in and around a tribe of supporters, then it will work.”
Source: Courier Mail