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NRL seals revenue sharing agreement with clubs after bumper broadcast deal

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has come to terms on a new revenue sharing deal with its 16 member clubs under which they will share an additional A$100m (€67.8m/$71.9m) per year – an agreement that has been hailed as one of the most significant in the sport’s history.

The agreement unveiled today (Thursday) comes in the wake of the finalisation of the NRL’s new broadcast deal last week. Rights for the NRL were acquired in Australia by pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports and the Telstra telecommunications company under a five-year contract running from 2018 to 2022.

In August, commercial broadcaster Nine retained domestic free-to-air rights for the NRL in a deal worth A$185m per season over the five-year cycle. The new deals with Fox Sports and Telstra have pushed the overall value of the cycle to A$1.8bn – a 70-per-cent increase on the current cycle with the same partners.

The NRL today said that from 2018, the new deal will deliver more than A$100m extra per year to the 16 clubs until 2022 and around A$100m more will be invested to grow the game from the grassroots to the elite competitions each year.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman John Grant said: “The ARLC sought to balance the need for strong and financially viable clubs with the need to invest to grow the game – and this agreement will help us achieve these goals. The new broadcast deal created a unique opportunity for the ARLC, the clubs and the states to come to an agreement that secures the game's future – and we all agreed to take it.”

Clubs representative Bart Campbell added: “This agreement is a very significant milestone for the game of rugby league. It has been reached after a robust but collaborative process that maintained a clear focus on ensuring the clubs can be financially strong in the short to medium term and that investment can be directed to grow the game over the long term. The clubs and the Commission are now entirely aligned and our fans and sponsors can get behind their clubs with the confidence that we will be around for the long term.”

Key elements of the funding agreement include payments to clubs of A$1.5m each year from 2016 to 2022 to be directed to improving their operational capability and to driving commercial revenues, and a grant of 130 per cent of total player payments from 2018 to 2022. The ARLC and clubs will now sign a Memorandum of Understanding while the agreement is formalised.

The final package will include agreement on other non-commercial issues and will form the basis for each club to hold a perpetual licence to play in the NRL competition. Grant said that, with the agreement in place, the ARLC and the clubs can now focus on the future as one.

“We are now both intent on making the game stronger at every level… from the grassroots through to the elite levels,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity for rugby league and we are going to work together to make the most of it.”