After a decade of innovation and commercialisation under recently departed CEO, Andrew Demetriou, AFL remains Australia’s most profitable and supported sport. However, the good news for the NRL is that it’s now all ahead of them.
That’s the view of Jack Watts, managing director of sports sponsorship firm Bastion EBA, who’s recently relocated from Melbourne to Sydney – after success with AFL clubs down there – to concentrate on Sydney sporting ventures.
Watts likens the NRL to where the AFL was a decade back – a well-run and popular sport but needing to broaden their commercial acumen and diversify revenue streams.
He said it took a guy like Demetriou to turn AFL into a “commercial powerhouse” and all the signs are good for the NRL, particularly now it’s underpinned by a lucrative TV rights deal.
“The NRL is poised to go on a similar journey to what the AFL has just been on,” Watts told B&T. “I really think you’re going to see league boom.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the press of late of the commercial difficulties the NRL face. For the NRL it’s about getting the other revenue streams right and doing more with them. The NRL are on a journey to get their stadium structure right, they need to get their attendance proposition right, getting a culture around fans becoming members of clubs; a good hospitality program and a good B2B network in the NRL.
“The AFL have ticked the box in membership, in hospitality, stadium economics, attendance, sponsorship. Sure, the NRL do these things well but I feel they’re about to embark on a period of unprecedented growth. The lessons are there for the NRL from what the AFL got right and got wrong, and the NRL, I believe, have a good commercial team and a good CEO who is driving that change,” Watts said.