NRL Club Bosses Again Eye Breakaway Competition As Optus Comes Sniffing

Cowboys players celebrate victory in the NRL Grand Final between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium in on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Talk of a breakaway NRL competition has again surfaced with many of the stronger clubs reportedly not happy with NRL HQ management and the ongoing rights saga amid new threats to go it alone.

John Bastick
Posted by John Bastick

This hasn’t been the first time there’s been reports of ructions amongst club bosses with an elite 12-team comp mooted back in August. And the whole thing smacks of the disastrous Super League fiasco – when the league split into two separately aligned comps – back in the late 90s.

However, The Australian is this morning reporting that the concept is now being openly debated among some in the league.

The premise – although unclear – would involve 12 teams – some existing and some new – with a national flavour.

Previously, clubs that hadn’t attracted big fan bases or large TV audiences had been fingered for the chop. Those clubs reportedly include St George-Illawarra, West Tigers, Canberra and Newcastle.

Although there are no concrete plans in place, it would be assumed these clubs would be forced to relocate to other states to give the competition a more national flair. Perth, New Zealand and another Queensland team are all fighting hard for inclusion.

The Oz is reporting that the more powerful clubs are refusing to commit to the NRL until a rights deal with Foxtel – reportedly worth upwards of $1 billion for the 2018-2022 season – is signed.

One club boss speaking with the guarantee of anonymity told The Australian: “There is a massive amount of frustration among the clubs. They were told the week before last that a deal was as good as done. They are as angry as a hatful of spiders and muttering again about a breakaway competition.”

The NRL’s chief sponsor, Telstra, is reportedly unhappy with the way the rights deal is being played out. More so because of its large stake in Foxtel.

That means arch-rival Optus is now circling, fresh from pinching the rights to the English Premier League from Foxtel last month.

The big problem for Optus however is its perceived poor coverage in league-loving regional and country areas.

That said and done, The Australian has also reported that it does look like Foxtel and the NRL will strike a deal and soon.

“Fox Sports are relatively ready to go with a pretty attractive deal, but the NRL traction is not as quick as it should be,” another CEO was quoted as saying. “There is no other partner. I would have thought there weren’t too many barriers to a deal. “