Australia to the Rescue?

A month ago the NRL in Australia was celebrating the television deal that it had negotiated with Channel Nine and quite rightly so.

Those close to the sport believe that the NRL has now become one of the few sports that has actually taken control of their game away from the broadcasters and at the same time secured twice as much money for the free-to-air rights.

Under the terms of the $925 million deal that the NRL negotiated with Channel Nine, it has  not only managed to ensure four live games per week on free-to-air television, but has replaced Monday Night Football, which was not popular with the fans or the players,  with a more palatable Thursday night game; however players may baulk at the recovery time for these games.

One big plus from the deal is that the annual Trans-Tasman Test to be played at the end of the season, where it always should be.

State of Origin also gets the respect it deserves. The second match will be played on the Sunday night of a stand alone representative weekend. This will reduce the number of split rounds from six to two and shortens the length of the season by a week.

One other thing that the new deal did do was end speculation of a Super League-type breakaway by clubs, which had been mooted.

Yet one thing many people have not considered is the NRL restructuring from what it is today. We know of the planned expansion in 2018, but could the expansion be bigger than imagined.

Just as Australia is celebrating a great television deal the sport in the UK is seeing viewing figure on the decline. In fact at almost the same time as the Australian deal was announced in England a 15% decline in viewing figures was announced.

This coming month Rugby League is going to be pushed even further into the background as England hosts the Rugby Union World Cup. Not surprisingly the doomsayers are preparing to toll the bell for the death of the sport.

Many had predicted such a day would come once Rugby Union moved into the professional era. It was believed then that players would no longer have to switch codes and in fact there have been many make the switch from Rugby League to Union.

Yet it is the merging of the playing styles that has probably done more harm to both codes than the switching of personnel. Rugby Union having adopted the defence plays of Rugby League has killed much of its free flowing appeal, while the hits that used to be reserved for Rugby League are now just as prevalent in Union, as players stay out of the rucks and line their opposite number up.

NRL one feels has a future in Australia. Yet what must concern the sport is its future outside of Australia. It is not a massive sport outside of Britain and Australia, so to lose Great Britain as a force to be reckoned with would be a major blow.

However with the television deal that has been negotiated with Channel Nine does the NRL have the scoped to re-invigorate the game in other countries by setting up an IPL or HIL of Rugby League in Australia? A league where the best players in the world go into an Auction and then compete in a competition that sees the best on the park every week?

Some may say this will never happen. Others believe it must, to save the game and the credibility of its own world cup competition.

The next two years will no doubt reveal the direction the game is headed, and whether Australia will indeed come to the aid of the game globally.

Australia to the Rescue?
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