NSW Cup Player
- May 15, 2012
This is just what the game has needed in the states and it could really kick start the game there.
BILL Tatham is serious, dead serious. He wants to take a State of Origin game to the US and is willing to pay whatever it takes. We're talking millions if necessary.
He also wants to revitalise the World Club Challenge by naming it the World Series Challenge, hosting it at Home Depot Stadium in Los Angeles _ the base for David Beckham's LA Galaxy _ with teams playing for $1 million.
Tatham has regenerated rugby union in America through his deal to host the world sevens. Now he's struck a partnership with the American Rugby League, which is led by former St George halfback David Niu.
He wants Origin and the WCC to help the sport secure the holy grail _ America.
"We have an opportunity, thanks to our partnership with USA Rugby League," Tatham told The Australian. "We have an opportunity to honour that and bring in the greatest competition we can. That's the goal.
"We're doing it in 2013. If we have the money, and we do, and we have the people . . . there is no excuse for not going for it. None."
Tatham, the founder of Grand Prix Sports, self-deprecatingly calls himself an ignorant American; but he clearly knows what he is talking about.
He is a former owner of NBA team the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma Outlaws in the defunct USFL. His company has assembled a board of eminent American businesspeople with an intimate knowledge of the sporting landscape.
They've been involved in the Olympics and the NFL. They have dabbled in baseball and basketball. Now it's rugby league's turn, thanks to a serendipitous encounter while on a trip to Europe.
"I am staying at the Marriott," Tatham said. "I am watching the television. I am watching rugby league. I'm thinking that's bitchin'. I don't know what it is but I am digging it.
"I thought, if I like it, Americans will like it. I like rugby sevens, but if I was ever going to invest in anything in the traditional sense my money is on rugby league.
"Case closed, end of discussion. My heart was telling me to reach out to this game and make a deal, which we did.
"Once we sat down, it happened in two or three days. We can't fail. I like rugby, but man do I dig rugby league!
"There is a lot of work ahead of us but it's really easy to do if you have the right people.
"The challenge for us is to quickly negotiate and convince these guys that it really is going to be a first-class event.
"That's the job. I am going to be honest. I don't know much about the history. I just know they're great, great, great rugby league teams.
"Nobody in the world would be more grateful than me to be associated with their match played in the US."
The ARL Commission is currently weighing up where to play Origin next season.
Melbourne has made a strong bid to host games for the next five years, offering $12.5 million as a sweetener. In the short term, the World Club Challenge looks more likely for Grand Prix Sports.
Long-term, Origin could find its way back to the west coast of America -- the fourth game of the 1987 series was played in Los Angeles.
"What would I be smarter doing? Spending a few million to put on a State of Origin or $50 million to start a 16-team league," Tatham said.
"If the rugby league people in Australia would support it, we can do it. You have to remember this, I am not doing this to put on one tournament.
"I am not going to be happy with that.
"We're going to try to build rugby league in the US.
"Ultimately, get elite athletes off the street to come and play the game.
"We have athletes coming out of our ears over here. It has to be compelling, that's the thing.
"If it costs $5 million, what's that worth in the long term?
"In any case, that's totally doable. It's priceless to have that here.
"We want to bring in the best in the world and make it worth their while financially."