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The National Rugby League Chief Executives have today thrown their support behind Monday Night Football, suggesting that it should be considered for free-to-air programming in future years.

Clubs pointed to a growth in crowd averages from 13,500 in 2010 to 18,900 to date in 2011 and a 47% lift in television audiences.

Monday night has this year provided three of the top 10 rating subscription television programs of all time.

In 2011 the most watched program remains the April 2 match between the Eels and the Cowboys, which drew 408,000 viewers. Monday night matches then occupy position 2 - Rabbitohs v Dragons 392,000, 4- Bulldogs v Wests Tigers 365,000, 5 – Cowboys v Storm 359,000, 7 – Storm v Bulldogs 354,000 and 8 – Storm v Warriors 353,000. Positions nine and ten are held by Saturday evening games.

“The clubs strongly recognise the value of Monday Night Football and the importance of investing in the time-slot,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“It is not the preferred scheduling option in terms of crowds but there is a recognition of the overall unique opportunity it brings to Rugby League fans and a view that clubs need to work together to maximise the values going forward.

“Clubs are already compensated an additional $40,000 per game to invest in Monday nights and we are certainly seeing some positive results in 2011.”

Today’s meeting discussed a number of broadcasting and scheduling issues and has resolved to plan a detailed review of scheduling options in the weeks ahead.

Discussion on the NRL commission focused on the importance of clubs being able to fully understand the legal framework of the new body.

Mr Gallop made it clear that clubs had not been asked by the NRL to sign new license agreements:

“The NRL has circulated the existing agreements (which remain in force) so that clubs can put forward their views on future templates but we have not sought to have any agreements signed as has been reported.”

Today’s meeting also focused on game-wide guidelines for the responsible promotion of any betting partnerships and the limiting of betting options.

Particular focus was paid to the NRL restricting some ‘exotic’ betting options, including whether a field goal would be kicked and last scoring play.

There is a strong recommendation that all exotic betting options be refused in Toyota Cup and State competitions.

“There is still consultation needed with  betting operators but this remains an area that we are looking at very closely,” Mr Gallop said.

“We have been in discussion with governments and with other sports and there is some important progress being made.”

The positive conclusion to the meeting was a report of the partnerships between the NRL, NSW clubs and flood-affected Rugby League areas in Queensland.

Director of Community, Culture and Diversity, Trish Crews, reported that all of the 45 affected clubs had been able to compete in 2011 and, incredibly, have managed to retain the same number of teams and players.

“The support from across the game has made a real impact,” Ms Crews said.

“Damage among those clubs at the start of the year had ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $250,000.

“All of the NRL Clubs have formed important partnerships but there is still a lot of work to do and a number of important activities ahead.”