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Henson Park Old Firm

Member Since 01 Jun 2005
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Why the NRL should buy Super League

26 March 2015 - 01:50 AM




The NRL's consultation with England's Rugby Football League over reducing the interchange is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future integration of the two bodies.

In case you missed it, League Central announced today that the study being conducted into bringing down the number of replacements was being done in conjunction with the NSW, Queensland and country leagues – as well as Red Hall in Leeds.

It's the sort of consultation that never took place in the past, much to the chagrin of administrators in the northern hemisphere.

Another clue to the increasing co-operation is the expanded World Club Series, after a decade of agitation for it, and the possible inclusion of Super League teams in the Auckland Nines.

What I am about to propose might sound like fantasy, but I actually see it as a good chance of happening … eventually.

As a professional sport, we are in a unique situation where we have just two full-time professional leagues. Within those two compact professional leagues, there is a lot of unnecessary duplication – administration, marketing, PR.

The same duplication exists in the NSWRL, QRL and CRL, too – and the NRL's first job over the next five years is to eliminate those. Soon, we'll have NRL NSW, NRL Queensland and a state league competition that really covers those two states, keeping kids in their home towns for longer.

But what is next after that? Surely it is to improve efficiencies across the two major professional leagues – the first baby step towards which we have seen today.

As I've written before, the NRL should try to buy Super League.

The Rugby Football League did try to sell the London Broncos to the NRL two years ago. Good decision on that one, David Smith…..

Other major niche sports, such as American football (CFL?), Australian football, baseball (maybe Japan?) and basketball (a pan-European comp would come close) are not in the same position as rugby league in this regard.

They don't have one standout foreign league that is at a comparative and competitive level that they can absorb to add value to themselves.

Imagine this if you will: Super League becomes NRL North. All the TV money from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and France is pooled, and spread evenly between 28 clubs (that's how many there are now). You are offering sponsors access to new markets, attracting a completely different level of backer, private owner, broadcaster and fan into the bargain.

Every team therefore has the same salary cap, with players moving between clubs seamlessly regardless of hemisphere.

By now you are saying "not Mascord's stupid merged comp idea again". No. Not Mascord's Stupid Merged Comp Idea.

We still need derbies and tribalism, that's what brings in the crowds.

So the season starts with three or four weeks of inter-league play, like the World Club Series we have now. No pre-season matches.

Then, we go into the comp most of you care about, the NRL we know and love. Sixteen weeks of that, with time off for Origin and internationals, over 19 or 20 weeks. That should mean greater demand for tickets and better attendances because of scarcity. Then the same finals series we have now, and an NRL champion is crowned, as always.

Bear in mind we're going to come down to 20 rounds soon, anyway.

At the same time, we get an NRL North champion. We've only played 16 comp games, four matches replacing the pre-season we used to have, and finals – still a reduction in the current number of matches played.

We then resume inter-league play for three or four weeks in October, and crown a world champion at the MCG or Wembley or Old Trafford. We have invented a whole new property and virtually doubled what we currently have without a greater demand on players or a loss of tradition.

I guess we still have to find a place for internationals in this calendar. Perhaps they should all be mid-season, I'm not sure, or maybe they should be limited to Tests on consecutive weekends in the southern hemisphere spring, northern hemisphere autumn.

But the benefits of this are that we keep the best of what we have but the NRL, flush with funds, drags Super League up to speed with it and gets the introduction to foreign markets that it clearly desires -  and that it needs to survive in an increasingly globalised sports market.

Tell me what you think. I'll catch up with previous weeks' comments next Wednesday, too