Since the NRL media conference announcing the most significant media rights deal ever negotiated by the NRL and its media partners, there has been some confusion about what this announcement means to the current expansion debate.
Firstly, I would like congratulate all those concerned with the great outcome of the media rights negotiations. I have heard that there was some serious, tough bargaining that went on all night towards the end. Whatever the process, the outcome for our game and for the media partners is the best result that the great game of Rugby League has ever experienced. Rugby League now has control of its own destiny and more importantly has the resources to grow the game at the grass roots and reward those who contribute at all levels.
Some commentators, including a few locals, have stated publically that because expansion was not included in the release or addressed in the media rights media conference that expansion would now not occur until after this agreement has ended i.e. until 2018. This statement and all others that predict that expansion is now off the NRL's agenda are completely and utterly WRONG.
I do understand this confusion because the ARLC Chairman, John Grant, said that "this deal did not attach a value to the ninth game". This ninth game, of course, refers to the expanded NRL from 16 to 18 teams. Because we have maintained a very close dialogue with the NRL, we always knew that this media rights deal would be based on the current format of the NRL. i.e. comprising the current 16 participating clubs with these clubs located in their current suburbs, cities, and regions.
As stated in the media conference, NRL EXPANSION will be addressed when the NRL releases the much anticipated Strategic Plan. This release is expected by the end of 2012 or maybe as late as early 2013. All of these dates fit nicely into the Bid's plans and expectations.
There are several options regarding expansion currently being considered for inclusion in the Strategic Plan. i.e whether to expand or not; when should expansion take place; how many clubs involved; where to locate any expansion clubs.
These are critical questions and because of the vital consequences of these decisions, we expect very thorough deliberations with a massive amount of risk assessment and due diligence to be conducted by the NRL executives, the ARL Commissioners and possibly the media partners.
The CQ NRL Bid was very encouraged to hear from the media announcement that "viability" and "sustainability" would be critical criteria when expansion is considered. These two operational elements are the mainstays of our Bid's Business Plans that have been thoroughly stressed tested by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
At the press conference the NRL and the ARLC also stressed the importance of strategically suring up its Rugby League heartland against the ambitions of the AFL as another consideration of expansion. Central Queensland is undeniably Rugby League heartland and under constant and relentless attack by a very well resourced AFL.
Rest assured CQ Rugby League fans, we are patient and committed so we will not give up the fight for our own NRL Club in CQ.
- from the desk of the CEO, Denis Keeffe
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