“RA promised a national club competition combining the top Sydney and Brisbane clubs”

There’s lots going on with these TV rights negotiations. This article in the Herald today has some fascinating insights, for example, how about this one:
 
“RA promised a national club competition combining the top Sydney and Brisbane clubs”

‘If only one party bids we are rightly stuffed’: NSW Rugby chair

NSW Rugby chairman Roger Davis has voiced deep concern over Rugby Australia’s handling of the broadcast rights negotiations as his board joined the Sydney Rugby Union and rejected Fox Sports’ offer to broadcast the Shute Shield.

The Sydney clubs unanimously sided with RA over the future of the Shute Shield on Thursday and the NSW board followed suit on Friday morning, leaving Fox Sports out in the cold despite an offer only marginally lower than the governing body’s.

Rugby Australia wants to create a national club competition combining the top Brisbane and Sydney club sides.
Rugby Australia wants to create a national club competition combining the top Brisbane and Sydney club sides. CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL

Subject to RA buying out the remainder of Club Rugby TV’s deal, which has another five seasons to run, it returns control of the Shute Shield to the Sydney clubs and RA, which promised a national club competition combining the top Sydney and Brisbane clubs.

Despite his board’s decision, Davis said there was palpable anxiety on what “marginalising” Fox Sports might cost the game in the upcoming broadcast rights process.

“We (the Super Rugby teams) all need a substantial increase in our participation fee to survive, but how do you get there,” Davis said.

“Queensland has decided to buy into Rugby Australia’s whole-of-game strategy and punt on the fact that Fox and Optus will bid aggressively and there’ll be rivers of gold.

“I’m less convinced by that and I am worried there will be only one party that bids, and if there is only one party that bids then we are rightly stuffed.”

The SRU voted 19-0 to go with RA and the NSWRU voted in the majority to do the same, meaning RA can now begin the tender process for the wider broadcast rights for the next five-year cycle of Wallabies, Super Rugby, Wallaroos and Sevens games.

For the first time, it will also be able to take to market the premier club competitions in Brisbane and Sydney, as well as a new proposal to combine the top teams each season in a national club championship.

Staving off the Fox Sports bid, which was endorsed by Club Rugby TV owners Nick Fordham and John Murray, is a major coup for the governing body, which is under intense pressure to secure uplift on its current deal, which is worth $57 million a year.

It is also a 180-degree turnaround for the SRU, which has gone from having to find $300,000 a year to pay the Seven Network and Club Rugby TV, to pocketing a potential $1m to distribute between the 10 clubs.

But Davis said RA’s grand vision could come to nothing if Fox Sports abandoned the sport and did not bid for the rights, taking the competitive edge off the process.

“The difference between the offers was marginal, I just think [the clubs] went for the dollars and discounted the risk that they might end up with no broadcaster,” he said.

“They probably also believed some of Fox’s proposal was bluster.”

News Corp reported on Friday a fall in subscribers to its Foxtel Now and Kayo services.