NRL rights deal offers end to debt struggles, clubs say

The new domestic broadcast rights deal for the National Rugby League, Australia’s top rugby league competition, will enable clubs to erase their debts, according to the NRL Club Council.

“There was always a view in club land about the TV deal delivering long-term financial viability for the clubs and the game,” NRL Club Council spokesman David Trodden told the Australian newspaper. “I think that this deal will do that. Fifteen out of 16 clubs have been operating at a loss and I think that this provides an opportunity for 16 of the 16 clubs to be on a solid financial footing and not make losses any more. It’s a pivotal moment in the history of the game.”

Pay-television operator Fox Sports and commercial broadcaster Nine have retained domestic rights for the NRL in new five-year contracts, from 2013 to 2017. The deals with the Australian Rugby League Commission, the body that operates the NRL, are collectively worth A$1.025 billion (€876 million/$1.08 billion), or A$205 million per year. The league earned A$100 million per year in the previous five-year cycle, from 2008 to 2012.

The value of the NRL’s rights in 2013 to 2017 is expected to rise to A$1.2 billion once new media rights and rights in New Zealand are sold.