Could ‘NRL Europe’ be the Super League saviour?

Rugby League writer CAL GAUNT believes the time could be right for the NRL to make a move for Super League. 


The NRL have made no secret of their interest in buying a significant stake in Super League.

The NRL’s CEO Andrew Abdo and the departing Super League Executive Chairman, Robert Elstone, apparently discussed the idea in December, though little has been heard of the talks since.

To be clear, the NRL appears to be a league that has coped with the knock-on of a global pandemic, and it could be offering a hand to a league that has not.

That may well be the best offer of a shot in the arm Super League bosses get.

After all, the NRL are without doubt the trailblazers of Rugby League. They appear superior in almost every sense; their associated media and television coverage, player development and structure — and that’s not to mention their experience of pulling Rugby League from the mire and building a well-organised, well-sponsored brand and competition.

It is abundantly clear the Super League head office is in desperate need of a clear-out and restructure. With Elstone seemingly clearing his desk, now would be a prime time for the NRL to pounce. It is in their best interests to have the European game strong, and they are well-placed to take advantage of the minor inroads Super League have made with Canada and the United States.

As Super League clubs are currently locking horns with Sky over a renewed TV deal, it isn’t unfeasible that NRL bosses have a plan in place for that already — Amazon Prime TV have made a great success of their sports coverage so far — that could work.

Of course, the NRL’s intentions remain unclear and it is critical we see them in black and white before jumping into bed with them. If they want to give Super League £75 million in order to drain the European talent pool for the good of themselves, then that’s far from ideal and it’d be foolish to accept such a proposition. If, however, they are offering a friendly hand with the intention of being stronger together, then that feels too good to turn down.

Who knows what the future of Super League looks like? But something has to change — and fast. As it was Elstone who held the initial discussions with Abdo and the NRL, his departure may prove a stumbling block when it comes to re-opening the talks. Or it may provide an opening.

With details of any proposed deal as yet unknown, speculation and vigorous debate is all fans are left with.

One thing we do know for sure, is that forming ‘NRL Europe’ in place of the bruised and battered Super League, with a focus on improving marketability and the standard of the sport in the Northern Hemisphere can only be positive for global Rugby League.

This is a battle to save the sport, and there may not be many solutions better than inviting those who do it best to troubleshoot the faults in our failing system.