NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has moved to ease Gold Coast’s fears the Titans would be cannibalised by a potential new franchise in south-east Queensland as rugby league prepares to stage its second-ever Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium.
Abdo met with Titans management and owners on Wednesday and outlined the NRL's plans and criteria around the possible introduction of a 17th team in Brisbane from 2023.
While the ARL Commission maintains no new team will be introduced unless there is significant growth in revenue to support the move, the Titans have been the most vocal opponent of a 17th club citing serious concerns about how a new franchise in their region would impact their bottom line.
Abdo said the meeting with the Titans had been positive and reassured owners Darryl Kelly and Rebecca Frizelle that the NRL would act in the best interests of the game with the economic impact their primary focus.
“It was a terrific meeting and I say that genuinely,” Abdo said.
“What the Titans are doing on and off the field the last couple of years has been terrific.
“We had a great couple of hours talking about the future, talking about the club, talking about rugby league more broadly in Australia and it was an incredibly positive conversation.
“Of course clearly we exchanged information and exchanged views and as we said to the Titans, as we say to all clubs, we will communicate throughout this process.
“We’ve been working on this for years. A few elements and pieces of the puzzle are going to come from what incremental revenues we can get.
“The decision the Commission makes around the feasibility of expansion - and we’ve had this same conversation with all of our members - is that it has to be economically and financially viable and it needs to create value for everyone.
What the Titans are doing on and off the field the last couple of years has been terrificNRL CEO Andrew Abdo
“When we think about growth we want to make sure we’re growing and bringing new fans, new players, new participants into the game and not cannibalise it.
“We are not going to give running commentary on where we are at. We are going to collect all our data, have it in front of us and then make an informed decision.
“(But) we’ve seen across many sports having two teams in one market is great for fans but it’s also great for both clubs.”
Abdo said he was delighted Magic Round was able to proceed this year despite the ongoing threat of shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was unable to go ahead last year but in 2021 eight games will be played across three days starting on Friday with the Knights and Wests Tigers as the NRL promises an explosion of rugby league with more in store for the 120,000 fans expected to attend across the three days.
Magic match-ups to watch out for this weekend
“I will be relieved when the last game is played on Sunday but I’m excited for the fans and excited to see some footy,” he said.
“Sometimes less is more. Three days rather than four days and I think having a double-header, triple-header and triple-header is going to be fantastic.
“I also think when you have something taken away from you you realise just how special it was.
“This year we are going to do more off the field for the fans. There are more activations inside the stadium. There are more giveaways and rewards for fans.
A look inside the new Sydney Football stadium
“There are some exciting opportunities for fans to race against Josh Addo-Carr virtually on the field.
“There is an opportunity for fans to win $25,000 if they get in their seat for the end of the game.
“We are activating in and around the precinct as well.
“We are committed to making this event bigger and better here in Brisbane and at Suncorp. We are committed to do that next year and we are in ongoing talks about what the future looks like.”
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day & 3-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.