Push for ARL president to go back to the game's grassroots

RUGBY LEAGUE: So ARL Commission chairman John Grant is set to don his Santa suit, bow to the pressure exerted by a cartel of NRL bosses and gift the 16 clubs just on $50 million as a pre-Christmas sweetener.

And that won't go down well with the rank and file. This funding needs to go to the grassroots of our game, not the elite.

In the face of the drama that has emanated from NRL headquarters in the past 12 months, it is difficult to criticise John Grant for this decision. If he wanted upper echelon solidarity in the game he had little option but to bow to the demands of the clubs.

It had become patently obvious these heavyweights were holding the proverbial gun to his head. After successfully running David Smith out of the game, the disgruntled chairmen, and sections of the southern media, were also gunning for Grant.

Sure the ARL Commission is now well heeled following the phenomenal TV rights deal agreed upon last week. And while $50 million is a meagre percentage of $2 billion, hopefully Santa Grant won't forget the other stakeholders in the game.

The five-year broadcast rights deal, which comes into effect in 2017, is manna from TV heaven. It is more money than the game has ever dreamed about.

Agreed, the amount paid is a reflection of the popularity of rugby league. But surely if a sport - as an entertainment vehicle - is regarded so highly by the public and the TV executives, the clubs should not need handouts. Why is it that the game is successful, but many of the clubs are struggling financially?

It doesn't take a fiscal whiz to understand the basic profit and loss ledger. If a business spends more than it makes, surely its time in the commercial world is limited.

We are repeatedly reminded of the lofty NRL salary cap, which currently stands at $6.1 million per team, and is forecast to be $10 million by 2018. But that figure is how much a club can spend, not how much it must spend.

Obviously clubs in a single-city market, such as the Broncos, Cowboys, Storm, Warriors and Knights, have an advantage over the Sydney-based clubs when it comes to attracting financial support through sponsorship and third parties. But if clubs can't live within their means, surely their tenure in the competition needs to be queried. In virtually endorsing the pay day, Grant, a highly-successful businessman, made one intriguing statement. He said 'in order to have the flower prosper, you have to water the garden'.

But surely the most fertile garden in rugby league is the grassroots, where our future champions are still learning to play the game.

And that nursery certainly needs huge buckets of water.


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