The NRL has issued a report on a meeting today of NRL club CEOs at which it revealed a number of details about the current state of the game and next year’s competitions, including the fact that next year’s World Club Challenge will take place in the UK on the weekend of February 20-22, with the NRL season due to begin on March 5.
NRL CEO Dave Smith announced:
The proposed pre-season calendar for 2015 will start with the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
And the Indigenous All Stars game will return on February 14.
The NRL is currently in discussions with Tourism and Events Queensland to host the game at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
It will be followed by the World Club Challenge (in the UK) and NRL trials on February 20, 21, 22.
The Telstra Premiership will begin on March 5
Changes to the Salary Cap
These include increasing the veteran player allowance by up to 50 per cent and making it easier for clubs to put long serving players into careers with their clubs.
Special provisions will also be made for clubs which lose players through terminations and concussion – so that they are not penalised for doing the right thing by the game and their players.
The changes follow a comprehensive review of the cap and will take effect progressively from 2015.
Impact of New Rule Changes
Analysis of the rule changes introduced this year shows that it has resulted in one of the closest competitions on record.
So far this year, 48 per cent of games have finished with a margin of 0 – 6 points.
One in every five games have had a margin of 2 points or less.
There has also been an increase in playing time of about two minutes per game.
Concussion Rule Changes
The NRL will strengthen concussion rules to make clubs more responsible for identifying and assessing players who may have suffered a concussive injury.
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the rules would be tightened to require a player to be taken from the field as soon as they exhibit any of the signs of concussion.
The NRL updated CEOs on its plans to support injured Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon as well as the establishment of a whole-of-game foundation. The game-wide strategy was supported by the CEOs.
In addition to providing a job for Alex in the game, the NRL will work with the clubs on a ‘Rise for Alex’ round in July (Round 19).
The aim is to raise funds for Alex’s recovery and to enable fans to show their support for Alex whose spirit has been an inspiration to everyone in the game.
Attendances have built up during the first eight rounds of the Telstra Premiership with strong crowds and a number of records broken during the Easter and ANZAC rounds.
However, the NRL will work with the clubs to make changes to its strategy to increase attendances at Rugby League matches.
An analysis of crowds at NRL matches shows they have been steady over the past 10 years.
The average crowd at games was 15,900 fans last year – which is exactly the same average for matches over the past decade.
The target for this year is 16,500 and the NRL is on target to achieve this.
The NRL and clubs are pursuing new ways of changing the dynamic in the game including the “Right Game, Right Venue” strategy (making more use of large metropolitan stadiums balanced with suburban grounds) and ticketing options and improved game-day experiences that provide families with value-for-money entertainment.
So far this year, the average crowd at the premium stadiums – Suncorp, ANZ, Allianz, Eden Park and AAMI Park – has been 23,400, well above the average for suburban grounds.
There was also discussion around the introduction of a club funding model which, for the first time, rewards strong performance but is conditional on minimum standards.
It is the most significant shake-up to the way the clubs are funded in the game’s history. The aim is to create a sustainable base from which to grow the game.
The clubs will have up to $1 million of a new funding package “at risk” if they don’t meet minimum standards. However, the clubs will also have the opportunity to access a multi-million dollar pool of “incentive payments” if they grow their performance across membership, game day attendance, merchandise and sponsorship.
The NRL claims that this is is core to its ‘future-proofing’ strategy to deepen and diversify its revenue sources (growing non-broadcast revenue to 50% of the game’s total income).
The new regime comes into effect from 1 November and detailed planning will now be undertaken.
A record number of club memberships have been recorded in 2014.
Already, more than 236,000 fans have signed up as members of their clubs – after eight rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
The results support the NRL’s campaign, over the next few years, to attract new members who are more likely to attend matches, recommend the game to others and grow long term average attendances.