NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo wants Brisbane to remain the home of Magic Round and form part of the game’s growth into Queensland ahead of a possible 17th NRL team introduction in 2023.
Abdo said Magic Round had a multi-year deal with the Queensland government to be staged in Brisbane and remained confident this year’s event – from May 14-16 – would go ahead as planned as Queensland prepares to emerge from COVID restrictions.
As recently as two weeks ago, the latest outbreak forced the NRL to relocate two games to Sydney.
With just over four weeks to go until the 2021 Magic Round, Abdo said the NRL was prepared for any scenario in regards to COVID.
Current planning has teams arriving either 24 hours or two days ahead of their game rather than spending the full week in Brisbane as they did during the inaugural event in 2019.
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The NRL and Queensland government expect this year’s event to inject $22 million into the local economy and provide 29,000 visitor bed nights with tickets selling fast ahead of the early bird special deadline on April 30.
"We will be prepared and ready for any scenario," Abdo said in regards to the threat of COVID.
"If there is an outbreak or if things change we will be ready with different scenarios to cope with that."
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After last year's Magic Round cancellation due to COVID-19, Abdo said he was looking forward to growing the event in Brisbane.
"We missed out in 2020 so we have made a commitment to play Magic Round here for the next few years so we want to keep building on this franchise," Abdo said.
"We will keep building over the short term and then we will look at what we do with Magic Round long term. One thing for sure is Magic Round is part of our calendar, it is part of our growth plans and we are committed to playing it here in Brisbane the next couple of years.
"This is rugby league heartland and we want to bring more and more rugby league here in the coming years not less."
Part of the NRL’s growth strategy for Queensland is the addition of a second Brisbane-based club, possibly as soon as 2023.
Abdo reaffirmed the ARLC would consider proposals to expand the NRL to 17 teams by 2023 in July this year, but said there was no guarantee a team would be added within two years as the game takes a cautious and deliberate approach to expansion.
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There are three bid teams fighting for a licence and Abdo said a new franchise must be able to stand on its own two feet immediately to be granted entry.
"Financial sustainability will be a key criteria for whether or not we are able to move to 17 clubs," he said.
"What incremental revenue can we bring in with broadcasters and sponsorship but also equally how sure are we the club is sustainable in terms of their commercial revenues is definitely a criteria.
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"We have always been working towards a June-July decision for 2023.
"I am confident based on what we’ve seen today on the readiness for all three interested parties here locally but equally this is not something that has to be rushed.
"If the business case says we need a bit more time then we need a bit more time. Either way we will be communicating this via the Commission in the middle of the year.
"If we don’t invest in participation in our core markets then the game will lose relevance over time."
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets