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SBD Global/October 30, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

ARLC Releases NRL Five-Year Plan, Logo For All Rugby Clubs

The Australian Rugby League Commission unveiled a five-year game plan that outlines a strategy and the funding principles that will drive the National Rugby League's future. The NRL's strategic plan forecasts that by '17:
  • An NRL growth fund will have made A$200M ($207M) available for investments in key projects.
  • Club membership will reach 400,000.
  • NRL social media platforms will engage 5.8 million people.
  • Average attendance at NRL games will increase to 20,000.
  • 700,000 people will play in competitions.
  • 1.8 million will be engaged in NRL community programs.
  • 1.65 million will take part in NRL activities.
  • 84% of all NRL players will be engaged in education or career training.
  • Central revenue will have doubled to more than A$300M.
Within the plan are objectives and initiatives for the next five years, including providing first class player conditions and career pathways; assistance programs for grassroots volunteers; a centralized development program; values-based codes of conduct across every level of the game; and a formal review of expansion options after the '14 season. ARLC Chair John Grant said, "The whole purpose of both the plan and the brand strategy is to ensure that everyone can identify their place in the game and work to a common goal" (NRL).

REACTIONS: In Sydney, Brad Walter wrote Grant has indicated that the appointment of a new CEO "may not be far away" but, five months after former CEO David Gallop's resignation, it is "no longer the most pressing issue in the game." Several issues in the game "remain unsolved:"

  • What is happening with the radio rights?
  • What about negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement with the players?
  • How much will the salary cap be over the next five seasons? 
  • How much will the annual grant to NRL clubs be?
  • Who will be the naming rights sponsor for the NRL premiership?
The answer to most questions has been that an announcement was "close." Grant and interim NRL CEO Shane Mattiske even gave a commitment that clubs "would know the size of their funding grant for next season" before Thursday (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 10/30). In Sydney, Stuart Honeysett wrote the NRL's announcement of its five-year blueprint was "gatecrashed" when Australia's Westfields Sports High School principal Roger Davis called out officials "over the poor level of support for his own institution." Davis said, "This year we had 19 ex-students play NRL and another 14 play in Toyota Cup. In the six years I've been principal to date, the NRL hasn't set foot in our door." Davis added, "What does the commission plan to do to support schools like Westfields to ensure that we continue to be the nursery for the stars of the future?" Mattiske said, "I think what you've seen today, firstly around development, is a shift to move away from a state or regional-based development model." Mattiske added, "What you'll see next year -- in fact, what you'll see from Thursday onwards -- is that people that come through your door that are focused on development will be carrying the NRL badge" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/30).

REMAINING CALM: The AAP's Steve Jancetic reported the search for a new NRL CEO is down to a "very short list," but Grant is refusing to put a time frame on the hire. Grant said that only one candidate so far has turned down the role, but he "denied he was getting frustrated at the drawn-out process, despite admitting it would have been ideal to have had someone in place" for the five-year strategic plan announcement. Grant said, "It's clear to everybody that these things sometimes take longer than you expect them to" (AAP, 10/29).

MONEY SETBACK: In Sydney, Honeysett & Brent Read reported the ARLC "had hoped to announce its '13 payments to clubs" with the five-year and logo announcement, but that move "was put on hold after the commission failed to reach agreement with the NRL Club Council." Now the parties are left with only 48 hours "to resolve the impasse, although it is expected to be settled" by the deadline. Additionally, a new code of conduct will be promoted "emphasising behaviour on and off the field." Grant made it clear that "a line in the sand had been drawn in relation to player behavior, a welcome initiative" following the behavior of several Canterbury players after the grand final. Grant: "We have an existing code of conduct; we need to refresh it. This overarching set of values and the new code of conduct are absolutely lines in the sand" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/30).

TEAM PICTURE: The NRL has revealed a new logo. All rugby teams from all levels of the game will wear a unified logo that brings the sport together with a consistent theme. Development programs are included, while state league and competition emblems have also been redesigned to give the game a new look (NRL). The NEW ZEALAND HERALD noted the logo is green and gold, "which make irk Warriors fans, and includes the Southern Cross constellation" that features on the Australian flag. Critics have pointed out "how closely the logo resembles Cricket Australia's logo," which shares its colors and features the Southern Cross (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 10/29).
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