THE National Rugby League chief executives annual conference recently was focused on strategies to build membership, reinforce the values of the NRL brand and strengthen the existing competition format.
There was a strong view from the CEOs, club chairmen and NRL board members present that the Telstra Premiership needed to focus on maximising the stability of existing clubs before looking to expand.
“There was unanimous support that the game needs to be able to grow the existing ‘pie’ so that we can increase revenue for the existing clubs, increase payments for players and increase the amount we can invest in junior development,” NRL CEO, David Gallop, said.
“You can’t do those things and invest in expansion, and until there is a strong business case for any expansion contributing to the growth of the competition then it will not be part of our immediate plans.
“A key point from this morning remains the success and strength of the competition and the reach we have at the moment.
“Our competitors are looking to get a foot-hold in areas that we are already in and that we have strategically targeted ahead of them.
“In looking closely at the brand through independent eyes, it comes through pretty strongly that rugby league and its stakeholders need to be more confident about the game’s strengths,” Gallop said.
“We have just seen more people go to matches than ever before, we have higher participation levels than ever before, membership has broken all records and the game on the field has never been more exciting.
“That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels and we are not. But, as we commit to strategic planning and future rights negotiations, we need to be mindful of the positives we have in the game.”
The meeting discussed moves to bring the game under the control of a single commission.
All 16 clubs expressed their support for trying to put a commission structure in place and were told that negotiations between the existing NRL partners News Limited and the ARL were progressing.
“The parties are certainly trying to support the process,” Gold Coast Titans CEO, Michael Searle, said.
“There is not a firm time-line on it and people may need to be a bit more patient but there are some good signs for what can be achieved in the months ahead.
“The commission won’t change the responsibilities of the NSW and Queensland Rugby Leagues, nor do the negotiations have anything to do with the number of teams in the competition, but they will hopefully lead to a central funding model and a central decision making process that involves highly skilled and independent people,” Searle said.
“There are still a lot of things to work through and everyone seems to be looking for a way to do so.”