With rugby league’s Independent Commission set to become a reality very soon (no honestly), the spin has commenced with regard to upcoming television rights. With a deal due to be negotiated as soon as the 8 good people true start sitting as the ultimate big picture, decision makers of the game in Australia the portents are good. Rugby league is a superlative product that many tv executives would love to have in their quiver of lucrative sporting properties and sport per se has always rattled the cages of advertisers eager to link their products with wholesome family entertainment. In the background too is the AFL’s recently heralded $1.2 billion plus deal that warped the landscape and caused rugby league’s administrators to think big, really big. To add value to rugby league many ideas have been mooted from separating the rights for NRL, State of Origin and Test matches to national expansion. Most worrying however is the very real possibility that the game on free will in the not so distant future contain more adverts! Say it ain’t so Joe? Various statto’s have long seen natural breaks in play as opportunities to insert the latest celebrity head spouting skin care after time off has been whistled. Close your eyes and think about the time it takes to set a scrum or take a line drop out and imagine Katy Perry instead… you get the picture? Whilst this may increase actual playing time (although I’m not sure what the players association will make of it) it is a retrograde step. One of the, no THE true stakeholders of the game are fans – they are the lifeblood of the code. Fans sustained rugby league through some dark years before Tina Turner sang ‘Simply the Best’ and fans did similar when News Limited coldly cleaved the game in two. Fans kept Souths in the competition and continue to buy tickets, buy newspapers and stump up hard earned, eye watering amounts of cash for little Johnny’s guernsey when it’s tough enough feeding the family. Sorry but all fans yearn for the day that any game, all games are uninterrupted by the scourge of endless, mindless, useless commercials, much less more of the same. Are you listening?
This post originally appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on July 25th