General NZBLOKES.CO.NZ: Bugger off News Limited by Peter Jessup


The sooner News Ltd gets its money-grubbing fingers out of rugby league the
better. The company run by Rupert Murdoch has controlled the NRL competition
since its failed attempt at a takeover in 1997 led to the setting-up of
Super League and the creation of divisions that still carry a hangover
today. Now it is stalling a return of the game to club representatives by
refusing to sign a "no compete" clause that clubs are demanding as part of a
move towards an independent governing commission.

News holds a 51percent stake in the competition that expires at the end of
this season along with its screening rights, it's grip then more slender
through a clause that guarantees the company first-and-last refusal on the
television deal through to 2027. The NRL is looking for a huge increase in
TV income, something News has been able to vote down since 1997.
Among the drawbacks for fans has been the lack of a season draw - game
scheduling is decided to suit Channel 9 as the season progresses - and
unusual kick-off times e.g. 4pm on Sunday afternoons for the Warriors so as
to suit a back-to-back screening in Australia.

The fact is News lost so much money on its first attempt to take control of
the game that the experiment will never be repeated: So why stuff everyone
around by pretending they have some interest in starting up their own
competition again? It's nothing but petulant behaviour in the face of the
certain knowledge that a) they will have to pay a fair market price for what
they have been getting cheaply or b) someone else will and they'll lose a
huge chunk of their scheduling. The benefits from a better TV deal will
filter through the clubs and, amongst other things, help prevent the
poaching of players to AFL and rugby union as well as the UK competition.
Don't look for any sensible comment on this issue from the Sydney Daily
Telegraph, and other Murdoch-lipped News-owned media outlets.

The eight appointed commissioners are looking to take the reins on November
1 and have all 16 club chairmen have delivered News a firm statement - sign
the handover deal including the 'no-compete' clause or they will not sign
the competition agreement to play in 2012. For the first time since 1997,
the clubs and the players they represent hold all the aces.


Good on the NRL. News need to get out of our game so we can get a decent TV deal in place and start paying the players a fair wage for the price they pay for playing the game.