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SBD/11/Leagues Governing Bodies
MURDOCH LOOKS TO CREATE EURO- AUSTRALIAN RUGBY "SUPER LEAGUE"
Published April 11, 1995
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. claims it has enough committed support from Australian players and coaches, and from English and New Zealand authorities to make a new global Rugby Super League a reality by '97 at the latest, according to FINANCIAL TIMES. But, the Australian Rugby League, whose TV deal with Kerry Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Group runs through 2000, "shows no sign of knuckling under." News Corp. rejected a "peace plan" which would split the league's TV rights between Packer and Murdoch. The planned 14-team league would kick off in March '96 with the world title played between the best European and Australian clubs in October. While some existing English clubs would be combined, Murdoch "is throwing the British sport a lifeline -- its finances are rocky." For Murdoch, the motive is "straightforward" -- attracting pay-TV subscribers to BSkyB and a new News Corp.-Telstra venture in Australia, Foxtel. Over-the- air rights would be sold to the highest bidder, "even if it was Packer" (Nikki Tait, FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/10). Murdoch's offer of 1 million pounds over five seasons for each of the 14 English clubs "is, in rugby league terms, mind-boggling," according to DAILY TELEGRAPH rugby writer John Whalley. Whalley writes that the plan has to succeed, or "the sport could be finished as a viable concern." However, one Member of Parliament called for an inquiry into the "highly secretive deal" which he claims has led to "the first major spectator sport in Britain being sold lock, stock and barrel to a private media interest" (John Whalley, London DAILY TELEGRAPH, 4/11).