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NRL Mailbox: Is expansion the answer?

NRL Wed, Mar 23, 2011 - 3:00 PM

The NRL has received plenty of correspondence from members and supporters suggesting expansion options for the game. Comments range from people declaring their support for their preferred area, to those with nationwide blueprints on just where teams should be placed.

No doubt the discussion will continue for some time to come but in the meantime we offer the official view on the debate.

The NRL's answer to the expansion questions is below.

Firstly we thought it important to clarify that the NRL has not voiced its support for any particular expansion area and we have made no commitment to expanding the competition at this stage.

We have determined that the next opportunity to examine the merits of expansion will be in the lead up to broadcasting rights negotiations which will coincide with the establishment of the NRL Commission. The likely time-frame for these events is mid-season in 2011.

It is important that expansion be linked to the strength of the existing competition (both on and off the field) as well as the contribution that a prospective team or area can make to the game.  The history of expansion in all codes suggests that unless these two areas are addressed at the same time then it is not likely to be successful.

The other important debate is the value of strengthening existing heartlands such as the Central Coast and Queensland versus new markets such as Perth.

Extra teams do not necessarily equate to extra revenue and the introduction of new teams actually requires significant investment to be successful.

Expansion though is not limited to extra teams. Innovations such as the Toyota Cup and the All Stars have expanded both the profile of the game and the opportunities offered to athletes.

If there was to be a new team it needs to have a sustainable model, not just for their own district but also to be bringing something to the table that everyone can benefit from. Be it increasing the game’s national profile which will help with broadcasting and sponsorship, or shoring up a strategic area the game has to be conscious of - they are the types of things that need to be considered.

The NRL will first determine the best time to balance the inevitable investment that comes with expansion against the competing needs of the existing teams, the need to raise the salary cap and the need to invest in junior development. At the same time it will look at the balance of the existing competition and the need to maintain the closeness of the competition.

These are matters that will be closely analysed later in the year.