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Volume 10 No. 24
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ARL's Players, Coaches Lobby For Slice Of League's $1B TV-Rights Deal

Australian Rugby League players and coaches "called for a greater share of revenues" from the National Rugby League after the competition signed a record $1B TV-rights deal, according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. The deal made the NRL the richest rugby league competition in the world, and "heats up the sport's battle with Australian Rules, the indigenous football code, for supremacy in the country's crowded sports market." Having struck the deal after months of negotiations, the ARL Commission "faces another tortuous round of talks" with players and clubs over how the money should be shared. Wests Tigers Coach Robbie Farah said,  "I don't know too much about figures and how that's going to get divided up but as players we just want to get a fair share. We want to get the minimum wage up and there's other issues like income protection insurance for players who get injured" (REUTERS, 8/22).

PLENTY OF OPTIONS: In Sydney, Greg Prichard reported that players are "likely to receive extra payments in a variety of forms for next season as a means of ensuring they properly benefit" from the deal. ARLC CEO Shane Mattiske said that as negotiations with the Rugby League Players' Association heated up, a number of options "would be up for consideration." They included a one-off bonus payment for all contracted players, match payments, retirement fund payments and representative bonuses. There is speculation that the salary cap could rise to as much as $6M next year. Mattiske said that "was not the league's aim" for next year at least. Clubs had already done most of their player retention and recruitment for next year, and a rise in the salary cap "could only help those players still available at the expense of those already contracted" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/23). Also in Sydney, Josh Rakic wrote that "there is more to come for NRL clubs" with the ARLC still to settle on the official radio broadcaster for the next five years. Representatives of broadcaster Ray Hadley's Continuous Call Team will front the ARLC with their proposal, which "could also be cause for concern" at radio station Triple M, which currently broadcast Monday Night Football. The ABC is "the other major player" but, with Hadley's involvement, "expect 2GB to retain the rights" (SMH, 8/23).

MOBILE RIGHTS UP FOR GRABS: In Sydney, Mitchell Bingemann reported Australia mobile phone provider Telstra is "in the box seat to pick up the exclusive mobile broadcasting rights" for NRL matches after the sport's governing body. Foxtel also acquired the rights to stream games live to IPTV and tablet devices. Telstra -- a 50% shareholder of Foxtel -- "welcomed the NRL broadcast deal, satisfied in the knowledge it would be able to offer the NRL content secured by Foxtel through its T-box IPTV offering." Many consider Telstra a favorite to secure exclusive broadcast rights for mobile phones, with sources saying that a decision" could be days away" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/22).

MONEY FIRST: Also in Sydney, Honeysett & Read reported that the NRL has been accused of "putting money before the interests of its players" by agreeing with the Nine Network to keep the State of Origin on Wednesday nights. Former Australia team doctor Hugh Hazard, a member of the game's research board, "was questioning why Origin was still being played midweek instead of on stand-alone weekends." Several of the game's top coaches, including Storm's Craig Bellamy and Canterbury's Des Hasler, "supported the notion of Origin being played on stand-alone weekends." However, this was rejected in the new broadcast deal. Hazard said, "My opinion is it was a decision made purely on money" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/23).