Imagine a professional sport. Let’s call it “non-association football”, or “football” for short.
Every winter, the Board of Control for the Non-Association Football League Union (BOCNAFLU) holds an auction. Up for bid are sixteen licences to be sold. Each licence grants a football club one year’s participation in the most prestigious competition, along with a share of the massive revenue that competition creates. Hundreds of football clubs from all over the land are allowed to bid. The sixteen highest bidders are granted a licence, while those who lose or chose not to bid are put into a lower status competition that is free to participate in but comes with less prestige, less fan interest and significantly less revenue.
There are roughly a dozen clubs whose commercial setup allows them to comfortably bid their way into the top flight every season. There is a second group of clubs, sometimes ranging from a half to two dozen, bidding for the remainder. Most clubs could never dream of having enough money to submit a meaningful bid. An overbid could be commercially catastrophic if a sufficient return on investment cannot be generated, so some are careful while others go all in on in the auction. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.
The BOCNAFLU takes the money collected from the winning auction bids and hands it over to the Association of Football Player Agents and Managers. That money is not invested in the game’s infrastructure and instead leaves the football economy forever, to be spent on high end houses, cars and boats but mostly cocaine, funding several humanitarian disasters in Latin America.
Licences awarded, the race is on to sign the best players. The richest clubs, those that find the auction an annoying blip each year, flex their financial muscules and sign far more players with far more talent than they could conceivably ever need. On game day, those that aren’t in the squad are locked in a basement where no light enters (this is an extremely unusual tradition of this code of football). Some players go an entire season without seeing the sun on game day.
Revenue sharing is set up to reward the successful, that is the already rich, and an aristocracy forms that can comfortably buy their position in the league each season, while the plebeians pinch their pennies and compete for scraps. The choice to describe these top tier clubs as aristocrats is intentional: aristocrats inherit their wealth and power through accidents of history and elite football clubs are no different.
As if balancing the books wasn’t enough of a challenge for the plebs, these clubs can’t even sign the dungeon-occupying second tier of talent and are instead left to fend with third or fourth tier players. Despite being entirely necessary for the functioning of the system, or else the aristocrats would begin to eat themselves until there was no one left to bid on the licences, the plebs have to face down these sporting and financial obstacles every year. Occassionally, one will get it very wrong and bite the dust. Another club will take its place and the sport moves on.
The only difference between this sport that I’ve described and professional sports (especially those with promotion and relegation), is that the latter adds a layer of abstraction that divorces you, the observer, from the actual mechanics of the system. We call that layer of abstraction “on-field results”. Sporting outcomes can be reasonably well described by a weighted random number generator and money is what carries weight. While success and money are not a given – especially over a short period of time like an individual season – given enough time with a big enough sample size, the money wins out.
The purpose of this not particulary subtle allegory of the English Premier League, especially on a website that is ostensibly about rugby league, is to talk about the actual way the sport of rugby league works and how decisions made now might affect the future. The current situation is that the northern half of the sport is supposedly dying, although the exact definition of what is decaying, decomposing or expired could be debated endlessly, and the southern half is stuck in the grip of aimless boomer nostalgia that seems to be impulsively pushing towards a future that looks a lot like the past.
Most people reading this will have a wishlist of what needs to happen for the sport to embrace the 21st century: more clubs in more exotic places, more meaningful club fixtures and less filler, more international matches to latch onto modern transnational identities, more resources for women and an online presence that is somewhat appropriate for the current calendar year. Most of the people in clubland who have opposed actual action in any of these areas will still admit it needs to happen, just not like that or in any way that might disadvantage them for any length of time, so often end up looking obstructive or clueless.
For the umpteenth time in my short writing career on the topic, the sport of rugby league sits at a crossroads. The northern half has a deal with IMG to do something, anything with the sport. The southern half is preparing to embark on a course of action from which there is no easy return.
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The RFL is reconjoining with the Super League commercial arm, only a few years after it was spun off to settle a petty political grievance that resolved itself anyway. Seemingly at a loss as to what to do to take the game forward, the new Super League-RFL have strategtically partnered with IMG.
The agency will initially focus on competition restructuring, content production and innovation, domestic and international distribution of media rights, digital transformation powered by IMG’s digital sports arm Seven League, brand strategy delivered by Endeavor’s cultural marketing agency 160over90, and streaming through Endeavor’s OTT platform Endeavor Streaming.SUPER LEAGUE AND RFL ANNOUNCE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH IMG, 10 May 2022
As I very cynically tweeted when the deal was announced:
A few months later, it’s not any clearer what IMG are going to do. The only thing that is clear is if there is commercial upside to their work, IMG is going to take the lion’s share. There was a fan survey which had a promising line of questioning. John Davidson has a good, if conventional, wishlist, although we should note that the NRL gutted it’s own in-house digital operation so Nine and Fox could do a worse job and the NRL could be moving away from centralised merchandising, which we’ll discuss later.
Defining professional rugby league’s problems in England and France would take a very long essay of its own but it can be boiled down to: there aren’t enough fans nor are there the right kind of fans nor are they in the right places, so there isn’t enough money, and the economic system in place makes it harder to survive on what money does exist. Finding solutions to these problems is so intractable, those with power tend to punt it to the too hard basket and the status quo continues, indiscriminately dragging everything and everyone down.
Time frames of solutions are also an issue and rarely discussed. Perhaps it would be nice if professional rugby league was played in the glittering metropolises of western Europe – in Barcelona or Milan or Paris, or we’d even settle for Dublin or Edinburgh – but the best start made in this direction is a broken down part time club in London that is closer to death than the being the genesis of a dozen new franchises, a French club due for relegation, a club in the middle of Greater Manchester that would rather cease to exist than name themselves according to their geography and depending on your definition of “glittering” and “metropolis”, Leeds. To get from where we are now to occupying some of Europe’s big cities would take a century, never mind the billions of currency units. No one reading this now would be alive to see it come to fruition.
Rather than get bogged down in blue sky, impossibly long term thinking and raising expectations to unsustainable levels, there are simple short term reforms within the IMG remit that would help at least revitalise the game.
There’s currently twelve teams in Super League, fourteen in the Championship and eleven in League One, totalling 37 loosely professional rugby league clubs. Of those, about fourteen pay their players to be full time, for a given value of “full time”, i.e. those in Super League plus Leigh and probably Featherstone. To me, it’s a slam dunk that this would form the top tier of the sport. Why take the clubs that can generate enough revenue to actually pay players something close to properly and hide them below the top flight?
That leaves 23 clubs to float in a part time second division, with a handful likely to be trimmed off as barely above amateur operations and not befitting the professional ethos of the renewed Super League. Reduce the number of fixtures to have teams play each other at most twice (and preferably less than that to make room for other properties, like internationals and the Challenge Cup), put every game on TV or the internet and you’ve got yourself a league.
Throw in a game in France every week, hiring someone who speaks French and can negotiate commercial deals and there’s a good chance you might even make some money by selling the sport to people who don’t already buy it. That this is a revolutionary idea, and apparently not work that the French clubs are supposed to do for some reason, is a damning indictment on the leadership of the game and the culture of the Super League clubs. As we’ll see, this is not confined to the northern hemisphere.
It is obvious that I am not in favour of promotion and relegation for rugby league. There aren’t enough enough resources to be pissing money away to the Association of Football Player Agents and Managers and the Sinaloa Cartel nor enough clubs to replace those that will fall by the wayside. Plenty will argue that it’s tradition. Other traditions that maintain a sense of order and a particular world view at great expense to the people involved, like ritual human sacrifice, have been done away with and yet the harvest still happens every year.
Relegation is a punishment for fans that have little to no say over how the club is run. Fans want to hand over their money and time and interest to see their team in the top flight but sometimes, through the whims of chance or the much firmer hand of poor management, they don’t get to do so and instead spend the money elsewhere, on things like food or rent. Worse still is the insistence that particularly poor management, leading to insolvency or bankruptcy or changes of ownership, should be punished further still with points deductions, all but guaranteeing clubs are relegated and fans lose interest. What did the fans do to deserve that?
Ask yourself whether fanbases grow or shrink when a team is relegated. Now if you were a business that needed paying customers to exist, would you set yourself up to turn away paying customers for the sake of turning them away, or would you want to accommodate as many as possible? Professional rugby league is a business, a poorly run one, and in the United Kingdom, it’s one that needs all of the customers it can get through the door. Relegation takes marginal customers and turns them into non-customers. Promotion offers nothing that putting all of the full time teams into Super League wouldn’t.
The alternative then is licencing, with all the baggage that brings, but if the system is to have licencing, let’s dispense with the bullshit criteria. Only two things matter at this point: does the club have a home ground that meets minimum safety standards and can the club prove through bank guarantees and asset cash flows that it can pay its players all the way through the season in a way that complies with the new salary regulations? If yes, the club goes into Super League. If no, it goes into the second division.
Repeat this process annually and the number of teams in each division is naturally going to fluctuate, in response to economic conditions and other externalities, but this setup nonetheless offers a sense of stability. Clubs know that if they can find a few million pounds in revenue each year, they’re safe. That much alone makes planning for the future so much easier and so clubs like Olympique, Leigh and Featherstone don’t need to make an existential choice between spending big and hoping they stay up (in a labour market where most of the best talent is locked in on multi-year contracts to the top clubs) or being thrifty and accepting this is a single year opportunity that can’t be used to build a top flight roster nor avail themselves of the additional commercial possibilities from being in Super League. It’s no coincidence that Catalans needed three years of actually being in the top flight to get up to speed. No amount of seasons in the Championship can do that.
The curious reality is that often the same players that secure relegation for a team in one season end up pulling on the jumper of the newly promoted team next season. It’s because they’re the best available on short notice and then we wonder why staying up is such a miracle! While local development pathways might offer an alternative solution, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to work out which dungeons the best prospects are currently locked in and local pathways aren’t exactly cheap. It’s almost as if the current system entrenches some clubs at the top and then prevents competition from flourishing?!
Nonetheless, IMG will probably opt for a fixed 10+10 (two divisions of ten teams), because that’s all that’s been floated in the media and there’s no reason to think IMG will be particularly imaginative. This will trigger a vicious political war to decide who’s in and who’s out. Even though there’s barely any money to be had and many of part time clubs are on autopilot, the perception of being left behind will be enough motivation for them to fight tooth and nail to remain in the professional ranks, even though many probably can’t afford to be in the sport should economic prospects actually improve. 23 doesn’t go into six easily. Save the political capital and if needed, use more subtle means to thin the herd.
Super League has famously only had four winners since 1996, one of which is not even in Super League anymore. The salary cap is sometimes derided as a futile exercise in maintaining some semblance of parity and often criticised for holding the big clubs back from signing the best players their money can buy. The reality is that the cap has stopped the biggest teams from running even further off into the distance, assembling undefeatable rosters while the plebs scrounge for who they can find that’s left over. The big clubs can still be at least challenged, if not actually defeated in the grand final, without causing runaway salary inflation.
What’s needed is more and better salary regulations. The NRL model more or less has it right and you know this is true because its biggest detractors fall into two camps: journalists scrounging to fill column inches and glue sniffers on the internet. It’s not enough to have a cap when a floor is also required, as is a maximum squad size, as is a minimum salary. That is, the full time professional rugby league clubs should have full time professional players paid appropriately.
The NRL’s strength is that is has each club spending about the same amount of money at any given time, plus or minus ten percent or so, while minimising the ability to hoard talent, so market forces guarantees that the league’s talent distributes itself relatively evenly, over the long term. It’s never going to be perfect because talent isn’t linear, rich teams are always going to do better and some teams will always get it hopelessly wrong but the Cowboys went from second worst to third best team in the NRL in one off-season just by signing Chad Townsend.
Super League then has multiple policy levers it can pull to achieve the desired outcome. Competition too disparate across the league? Raise the floor to ensure clubs are spending more comparable amounts of money. Revenues not keeping up with salaries? Lower the cap to avoid overspending. Losing talent to other sporting opportunities? Improve the minimum to make the sport more attractive to young and fringe talent. Squads not deep enough to go the distance? Increase the size. Like the Bank of England moving interest rates in response to inflation, these will only go so far but having some tools is better than having no tools at all and hoping that it sorts itself out.
This flexibility gives Super League options to manage big ticket items into the future that alternative structures do not. Want to trim the less commercially viable operations? Fix distributions and raise the cap and floor to put the squeeze on to force weaker clubs into the second division. Want a new team in a new area? Partner with someone who can fund the operation to the tune of three times the salary cap for the next five to ten years. Can’t find anyone with enough money? Lower the cap and/or give them special distributions to bridge the gap. Need to commercially consolidate a group of clubs to ensure there is a solid core to the professional ranks? Follow the NRL’s lead and up central funding while cutting costs. I have no particular love for capitalism but market forces are real and they can be put to work.
Instead of taking a flexible approach to the competition in the short term, it’s more likely that IMG will turn to the Premier League, as a powerful symbol of English sporting tradition, and other big international sports and try to squish rugby league into something resembling that shape in the short to medium term. Never mind that rugby league doesn’t have the clubs of the Premier League, doesn’t have the personalities of F1 and doesn’t have the money of the NFL.
IMG’s reimagining of the sport should be looking for a unique selling point to cut through but they probably won’t. “Boy, these guys are tough” doesn’t do it for anyone anymore, not least because there are two much larger sports that already have a duopoly on that claim. You can’t fight them head on, you can’t catch up to them by going slower and you can’t stand still or they’ll eat you alive. All that’s left is to zig when they zag. That is the challenge.
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While I’ve undoubtedly just wasted several thousand words arguing why England shouldn’t kneecap its clubs with the JEOPARDY OF RELEGATION, in Australia, rugby league’s structure is ossifying. Like a paelontologist unearthing bones turned to stone over time, trying to piece together what’s actually being decided in the back rooms of the sport requires picking out seemingly unrelated clues that have been left behind at random, to pull together a picture of what happened in a place far removed from your direct observation.
Which brings us to perpetual licencing:
The NRL will consider granting existing clubs perpetual licences on the condition that they follow the lead of the new Queensland franchise and agree to spend a mandated amount of money on growing the participation of the sport…
South Sydney chairman Nick Pappas has been leading the push on behalf of clubs to ensure they secure a permanent spot in the competition. The issue was raised at a meeting of club chairs and chief executives last week.
“That’s on the cards, absolutely,” ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said. “These are things we need to discuss with the clubs, if they have a perpetual licence, and I expressed this [on Thursday], our focus is going to be on participation…
“They are all the things we will discuss with them. We want to give them perpetual licences and the new franchise will certainly have those conditions on them.”Long-term future of NRL clubs could hinge on guarantee of junior investment, SMH, 9 October 2021
This is the first mention of perpetual licencing since 2016, where Steve Mascord outlined many of the potential problems with such an arrangement, and an off-the-cuff comment from the Peanut King in 2019. Considering it is the entire bedrock of how the NRL is organised, the absolute dearth of reporting what licencing is and what changes could or have been made in that time is another damning indictment on a media class that I’ve excoriated to the point of boredom too many times already.
In 2019, the Brisbane Broncos’ annual report stated the following (emphasis mine with some detail removed for clarity):
Effective 10 February 2012, Brisbane Broncos Limited became a member of the Australian Rugby League Commission Limited (“ARLC”), as a Licensee. The ARLC was established to be, amongst other things, the single controlling body and administrator of the game of rugby league football in Australia. National Rugby League Limited is a wholly controlled entity of the ARLC. As a Licensee, the Group enjoys the benefits from competing in the NRL competition… The licence granted by the National Rugby League may be renewed indefinitely at no cost. The Club Agreement signed between the Group and the National Rugby League provides that termination can only take place if an Insolvency Event occurs, or if the Licensee commits a material breach or commits persistent breaches of any provision of the Club Agreement…
During the year, negotiations which began in 2016 continued between the NRL and the 16 NRL clubs for terms of a proposed new perpetual Club Agreement. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was issued by the NRL in 2016…
Under the Deed, the term of the Club Agreement, which was due to expire on 31 October 2018, was extended for five years to 31 October 2023. The Deed also included a commitment by the NRL to transfer ownership of club intellectual property or trademarks (IP) back to clubs. The process has now been determined by way of a Club Marks Assignment Agreement (Agreement). However, the assignment will not result in a change to the day-to-day use of the IP as the NRL will continue2019 ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS & REPORTS, Brisbane Broncos Limited
to administer, and the Club Licence terms will continue to govern, the use of the IP.
The Broncos’ last two annual reports in 2020 and 2021 then state that negotiations with the administration regarding perpetual licencing are ongoing.
Here’s a thread about what’s happening with NRL intellectual property:
The summary is that, after the Super League war, all club intellectual property was transferred to the new NRL. This IP was held hostage to prevent a future breakaway competition from forming, preventing the defector clubs from using their names and logos. Now the ARLC is handing back the hostages to the clubs. If the entire sport of rugby league is turned over to the clubs, they have no reason to leave so there’s no reason valuable assets shouldn’t sit on the clubs’ books instead, improving their balance sheets.
Whether that means that licencing for merchandise is no longer centrally controlled remains to be seen. If it is now every club for themselves, it seems very strange that smaller clubs would agree to this, as they are currently subsidised by the merchandising distributions of larger clubs. Having said all that, it seems very unlikely any fan would notice the change.
If this is indeed a sign that perpetual licencing is in negotiation, and that a condition of that licencing is NRL clubs spending money on juniors and pathways and grassroots, the ongoing beef the ARLC has with the state bodies becomes a little less baffling. The people that currently do the heavy lifting on pathways then need to be brought to heel and, if possible, gotten out of the way so NRL clubs can meet their licence conditions.
This could explain why the ARLC pursued the NSWRL into court over a relatively trivial matter of managing conflicts of interest. While the court found that the ARLC couldn’t demand a new election, it did find that the ARLC could cut funding. Either the NSWRL accepts board members directly from NRL clubs, with whatever detrimental impact that would have on the state body’s agenda moving forward, or its funding is re-directed to the NRL clubs. There’s no winning there for the Blues.
This could also explain why the Queensland Cup could end up adding the dipshit Cowboys and Titans. While national reserve grade is apparently dead, it’s not clear if that applies to the entry of NRL reserve teams into Queensland Cup (Bruce Hatcher throwing up an Australian Challenge Cup could be sufficient distraction to prevent them from following through – I hope). Of course, the Cowboys and Titans want this because it is simply too much to ask them, and others, to step up to the standard set by the Storm, having to figure out how to spend their mandatory dollars on pathways without their logo being the only one on the jersey.
The net result of siloing the fringe first grade talent into NRL-branded teams and mixing them in a league with heritage clubs staffed with leftover part timers, will be the domination by the NRL reserve teams and the competition’s ruin. If the NRL reserve teams dominate every year, it will be clear there’s no point in continuing with state cup as the sport’s second tier, and national reserve grade will be introduced anyway.
That in turn could explain why Toowoomba is tying up with the Bulldogs and Ipswich with the Roosters. It’s to maintain a tenuous pathway to NRL if the formal links are severed but in doing so, they tacitly accept that they do not deserve the respect of a proper feeder relationship that has underpinned the success of so many recent premiership winners (ironically, feeder relationships between NSW NRL clubs and QRL clubs was opposed by the NSWRL – probably should have worked together on that one!).
In a world where the NRL clubs control pathways, players will have to earn scholarships as juniors, graduate to NRL under 21s teams and NRL reserves and then hope they make the cut to the first grade. If they don’t, there’s no high enough level of Australian competition outside the NRL system to work their way back in. Too bad if you were Jahrome Hughes, Ryan Papenhuyzen or Nicho Hynes, who’d all been swung on and missed by NRL clubs and got a second chance in state cup to become stars in their own right. The sport is apparently better off without them.
Taking it to its logical conclusion, if the perpetual licence is brought in, it means the teams we have now will stay where they are now, forever. Sharks to Adelaide or Tigers to Perth? Never. Worse, they will be constitutionally vested with voting rights at the ARLC in order to control the sport forever. The ARLC becomes less of an independent commission and more a cartel. No wonder the Sydney clubs wanted personalised, boutique, small stadiums on their doorsteps. They have no intention of going anywhere, nor any intention of growing beyond what they are now and soon, no one will be able to make them.
More accurately, perpetual licencing might mean all of those things or none of those things because we’ll never be told what’s going on. Instead, perverts like me sift random comments from random sources to piece together a bigger picture, like the paleontologist assembling a dinosaur fossil. Sometimes we’ll think the dinosaurs drag their tails, sometimes we’ll think they have feathers and sometimes we just won’t know.
More broadly, there’s a pattern emerging here and it’s not just Peter V’Landys’ love for losing lawsuits or losing unnecessarily public political battles with the bleakest expressions of humanity, New South Wales state politicians. We saw this in the negotiations with Nine. V’Landys gave the broadcaster everything they wanted, including reduced fees, rule changes, cutting off the digital arm and a plum landing spot for Hugh Marks after he lost his job for fucking his assistant, and got nothing in return other than to continue existing and favourable personal press coverage. There was no improvement in the quality of broadcasts, no protection of state cup coverage, no additional fees for an expansion and, in fact, the savings from the NRL deal were spent by Nine on buying the rights to rugby union. Brilliant.
Every cent the administration can get its hands on goes to the NRL clubs. V’Landys and Abdo and their cronies have gutted headquarters, including development and community support programs. They’ve sued state bodies and are in the process of trashing their premier club competitions and threatening to cut them out of Origin. They cut players’ pay during the pandemic (which they now have to pay back to the tune of $38 million) and shovelled all that was left over into the clubs.
It’s still not enough because it was never going to be enough. The clubs are giant furnaces whose fuel is cash and they will burn through whatever you give them as soon as they can. The Panthers were on Jobkeeper during the pandemic, spent state government funding that was allocated for grassroots sports on a carpark, are getting a brand new $300 million stadium for nothing, have put together three of the most successful regular seasons in rugby league history and demand more still to achieve completely unclear goals. They can make these demands because a casino with a football team taped to it is what passes for community infrastructure in western Sydney.
This is just the most readily available example and there are fifteen, soon to be sixteen, just like them. The Sharks want to play finals games at a construction site with capped attendance. The Roosters won’t share a government owned stadium with the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs didn’t clear a move with their landlord, the state government, from one stadium to another. The chairman of the Tigers went on an unhinged rant by text after being invited on a fan podcast and one of their four stadiums is falling apart. The Warriors are paying Matt Lodge’s full salary for next year to play against them because of a difference of opinion between a couple of alphas. Manly apologised to everyone for their pride jersey. The Dragons thought assembling the 2012 Broncos would be a good move in 2022. The Broncos made a player apologise to the coach for things he didn’t actually say four weeks ago on a podcast with less than 400 views. The Dolphins can’t commit to anywhere. The Titans are the Titans and the Knights are the Knights, endlessly circling the drain after both were bailed out by the NRL nearly a decade ago. They all wanted to avoid the 2021 World Cup because of a covid situation that was markedly better in the UK than in Australia by the time of the original scheduling.
These are just the examples off the top of my head and admittedly, while nothing will likely top Leigh’s owner Derek Beaumont offering to fight punters on Twitter (Super League can have that over the NRL), it’s clear that the clubs are run by people who are, generously, supremely selfish and childish, if not outright cowardly and parochial.
This demonstrates the insanity of putting these clubs at the centre of the game’s economy and at the top of its power structure. The clubs have no capacity for long term planning and no capacity to sacrifice for the greater good (in many respects, they reflect the general Australian population’s capacity for the same). They can’t even recognise that they themselves have no ability to create revenue without fans at home investing their time and money into following the sport.
“Prizemoney is one issue, but arguably the bigger issue of the Commission is recognising 90 per cent of their revenues are driven by the NRL competition with clubs and players,” Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said.Panthers boss savages NRL prizemoney levels as ‘embarrassing’, SMH, 29 August 2022
The best they can come up with is Global Round, an excuse to tap into the pools of money offered by blood soaked oil regimes and I’ll bet they can’t even deliver that.
Prior to the ascension of V’Landys, the financial precarity of the NRL clubs was a stick a competent administration could have used to manipulate the clubs into working towards the sport’s longer term goals, whether that be by relegation, relocation or financial asphyixiation of the incumbents, to free up resources to grow the game in the west or with women or internationally. Instead, he’s committed to the Gouldian agenda and every other part of the sport has been tossed into a shredder and used as fertiliser for the NRL clubs who no longer have any reason to commit to being better or more than they already are.
V’Landys has given up this leverage in order to maintain his place at the top of the current heap. His motivation for wanting to be in that position seems to be completely unknowable, as a simple lust for power doesn’t explain why he seemingly never exercises it except to give broadcasters and clubs what they demand. He missed out on running News Corp’s gambling operation and as his battle with Perrottet shows, he does not have the wits for politics. He already has two jobs and couldn’t possibly need a third. Perhaps he is a true believer. Perhaps he just loves the taste of boot.
No one will ever ask why, he’d never say and instead we’re treated to some of the weakest trolling imaginable to distract from entirely foreseeable problems that the administration continues to sidestep, rather than deal with.
Maybe in a fairer world, we’d clearly know what’s happening and have a means of meaningfully expressing our thoughts on the issue, other than the pathetically leading annual fan survey from the NRL. Democracy in this case may well be be a disaster, so in this world we inhabit, we are subject to the secret whims of the clubland cartel. What a surprise they’ve opted for this course.
It would be nice to at least know what’s going on, either through the media or preferably by the administration actually saying what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It may even turn out that the fanbase is broadly accepting of perpetual licencing, presuming they can be bothered forming an opinion at all. Guaranteeing your club a permanent place in the competition sounds like the ideal, especially if that club has been on the brink in the last decade.
But you couldn’t then turn around and complain that the NRL won’t put a new team in Perth, or that clubs won’t take home games to New Zealand to “reward” the Warriors for their sacrifice, or that they won’t participate in the World Club Challenge (or at least return phone calls to St Helens out of common courtesy) because these are not mutually exclusive things. It’s all intertwined. The same attitude that demands a permanent seat at the table and demands ever greater resources be poured into its maw, is the same one that denies the need for expansion or change or allocating resources to long terms goals or acknowledging anything outside its immediate field of vision or really doing anything that is not strictly to its own immediate benefit.
Eventually, the clubs will grow weary of V’Landys’ diminishing returns and he’ll be punted into the bin. Then the clubs will wonder what to do next. There surely won’t be a plan but I’m sure they’ll find some trinkets to fight each other over. We can only speculate what the next guy will do with what’s been left.