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SBD Global/February 25, 2014/Finance

National Rugby League To Invest $180M-Plus As It Seeks To Become Australia's Top Code

The NRL hopes to become the No. 1 code in Australia.
National Rugby League expansion is "firmly back on the agenda" after the NRL announced plans to invest more than A$200M ($181M) to "make rugby league the No. 1 code in Australia within four years," according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Bolstered by a A$49.4M profit in his first year in the job, NRL CEO Dave Smith "declared the game was now a big business -- and would behave like one -- as it searched for new opportunities." Smith: "Rugby league is poised for growth in a way that it never has before and we will consider growth, and we will make rugby league even stronger and healthier than it is today" (SMH, 2/25). In Melbourne, Jon Pierik reported citing "participation numbers around the country," Smith said, "Wind the clock forward five years and we will be the biggest sporting community in the country." The investment includes a A$120M growth fund to "help develop grassroots competitions, NRL clubs and stadium infrastructure." A sub-committee will be "charged with overseeing what has been termed" as an A$80M war chest. While Australian Football League side Sydney Swans CEO Andrew Ireland said that the New South Wales market was "big enough for the three winter codes to co-exist, including rugby union, he admits rugby league now has the resources to match the might of the AFL" (THE AGE, 2/25). In Sydney, Stuart Honeysett reported the NRL's other targets for '17 include "doubling club membership" from 228,000 to 400,000; increasing average crowds from 13,000 to 20,000; increasing participating rates from 550,000 to 700,000; and expanding "social media reach from 4.8 million to 5.8 million" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/25).

FUTURE FOCUS: In Brisbane, John Stensholt reported Australian Rugby League Commission board member Graeme Samuel will head a committee charged with overseeing an A$80M "future or 'sustainability'" fund. The fund will be "invested commercially and target returns" of at least 3-4% above CPI annually. It is "likely a fund manager will invest the funds on behalf of the sport," with Samuel heading a committee that will "oversee the investment." Smith said that A$30M spending "had already been identified," including A$2M to "improve the stadium experience for fans" and A$5M to assist NRL clubs to "recruit new and service existing members" (BRISBANE TIMES, 2/24).
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