National Rugby League CEO Denies That TV Coverage, Midweek Games Damage NRL
National Rugby League CEO Dave Smith "refuses to concede TV is killing rugby league, despite admitting Thursday night footy poses 'challenges' in the game’s battle to attract bigger crowds," according to David Riccio of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Around 17,000 fans are expected to attend Thursday’s ANZ Stadium clash between South Sydney and Brisbane -- "well below the Rabbitohs' average home crowd attendance this season of more than 21,000." After enjoying the "best ratings of any Sydney NRL match" it has televised this season last Friday night when South Sydney hosted Manly, Channel 9 is "confident that this fixture will also prove a ratings winner." However, Smith admits the match will "also prove a huge obstacle for fans, especially those with families, who will struggle to attend" the 7:45pm kickoff at Sydney Olympic Park on a school night. Smith: "I think Thursday night footy throws up some real opportunities and challenges" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 8/14). In Sydney, Georgina Robinson reported budget constraints and a "solid stubborn streak have led to five of the nine teams competing in Australia's long-awaited third tier rugby competition" doing so in yellow or orange jerseys. The competition's architects "tried to convince some of the teams to add a distinguishing colour feature to their jersey to mitigate any clashes, but none were willing to compromise." Adding to the confusion, sportswear manufacturer Asics provided "only a home strip and training jersey under the terms of its deal." If teams wanted an away strip, they had to "cover the cost of the design and manufacture it themselves." Of the five teams concerned, "only the Rams have an away strip -- in white" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/13). In Melbourne, Darren Walton reported the Australian Rugby Union has reduced points for "penalty and drop goals for the National Rugby Championship in a major result for fans of running rugby." Penalty and drop goals will "only be worth two points, while conversions will be increased to three in one of several exciting new law variations" which ARU CEO Bill Pulver hopes will "one day be adopted internationally." Pulver: "The points change was really designed to accentuate the way we want the game played -- smart, creative running rugby" (THE AGE, 8/13).