<big>NRL bosses call on News to drop breakaway threat</big>
August 23, 2011
Game changers … rugby league’s new independent commission met for the first time at NRL headquarters despite the stand-off over News Ltd’s no-competition clause. Photo: Steve Christo
A STAND-OFF over News Ltd’s refusal to guarantee the media company will not start another Super League-type breakaway competition threatens to delay the formation of the independent commission.
As the eight commissioners met at NRL headquarters for the first time yesterday, a meeting of NRL club chairmen demanded News Ltd agree to a non-compete clause before their clubs sign a new members agreement to play in next year’s competition.
The Herald was told the chairmen - who represented most NRL clubs, including the News Ltd-owned Broncos - were vociferous in their view the media company must agree to the clause before handing over control of the game to the commission.
News Ltd has offered to sign a non-compete clause for five years, but the club bosses are concerned the Murdoch empire may again start its own competition if they miss out on the broadcast and media rights after their agreement for the first and last right of refusal expires in 2027.
A sub-committee, which includes members of the independent commission plus ARL chairman John Chalk, QRL director Terry Mackenroth, South Sydney chairman Nicholas Pappas and News Ltd legal affairs director Ian Phillip, has been formed to finalise negotiations for News Ltd and the ARL to exit the game by November 1.
Seven of the eight inaugural commissioners - Leighton Holdings chief financial officer Peter Gregg was the notable absentee - met for a 10-hour meeting with the NRL management team yesterday.
The Herald was told that the commissioners spent much of the day listening to the NRL management outline many of the things the game does, but they also asked some hard questions.
Commission chairman John Grant, who was involved in a series of meetings with the ARL and News Ltd on Monday, said the commissioners were preparing to start work on November 1. ‘‘We had a very significant and important meeting yesterday with all of the stakeholders … and the agreement was we need to be targeting the first of November,’’ Grant said. ‘‘It’s a logical handover date, everything is now focused on doing that.’’
NRL chief executive David Gallop said he expected the commission’s effect to be virtually instant and was confident they would inherit a healthy product.
‘‘We’re going to collapse three boards that are currently in place and replace them with one, that’s a big step and you’ll see an impact from that almost immediately,’’ Gallop said. ''It’s a unique and exciting change for the game, it’s been in the pipeline for a long time.
‘‘The good news is that the game is in a position of strength to make that change. The key strategies the game has employed over the past decade are producing results but we need to set an overall strategical direction for the game.’’
Meanwhile, Cronulla members last night endorsed a deal for $10 million to be injected into the club from development partner Bluestone Capital if a proposed development on land surrounding Shark Park is approved by council. The proposal consists of residential and retail components, as well as a redevelopment of the Sharks leagues club.
‘‘For a number of years now, the future of the Sharks has been in the hands of our bankers and the ability of the club to secure and control its future has been limited,’’ said Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine.
‘‘This agreement with Bluestone Capital and our bankers is a huge step forward for the Club and, if the Part 3A application is approved, the future of the Sharks will be secured.’’
Irvine was unopposed at Cronulla’s annual board elections and a ticket of candidates he endorsed were all elected as directors, including former players Jonathan Docking and Phillip Tiernan and lawyer Peter Kerr.