Revealed: $50 million expansion coup as NRL eyes 18 teams

 

A second Brisbane team is worth an extra $50 million to rugby league as NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo outlined plans for the Telstra Premiership to one day expand to 18 clubs.

The Courier-Mail can reveal a League Central investigation has found a 17th team would be a multimillion-dollar bonanza for the NRL - compelling evidence the code is ready for a fourth club in Queensland.

The internal analysis was conducted in 2019 before the appointment of Peter V'landys as ARL Commission chairman, but he is now ramping-up plans to deliver a second Brisbane team to rival the Broncos in 2023.

There were fears expansion could be scuppered amid concerns from existing clubs, particularly cash-strapped teams in Sydney, that a 17th outfit would not deliver a financial benefit to the code.

But a strategic examination showed a second Brisbane side has been valued at $50 million in broadcasting, fan and commercial worth, quashing fears the NRL cannot monetise an additional club in a 17-team competition.

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Andrew Abdo says the NRL could one day expand to 18 teams with second teams in Brisbane and New Zealand. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Andrew Abdo says the NRL could one day expand to 18 teams with second teams in Brisbane and New Zealand. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The code's first expansionary move since the creation of the Titans 14 years ago appears a fait accompli with V'landys and Abdo set to meet with Brisbane team consortia within weeks.

And Abdo has gone a step further, saying the NRL could eventually capitalise on the birth of a fourth Queensland team by adding a second New Zealand club, which would deliver an extra, ninth game weekly for broadcasters.

"Whether we have a second team in Brisbane depends on the business case and what incremental value is created," Abdo said.

"If we can make the numbers stack up, it (a second Brisbane team) is pretty exciting and then that leads to us having an 18th team in another key market for us over time.

"We have ambitious plans for growth in New Zealand, too.

"Wouldn't it be great to develop even more talent from New Zealand.

"If we were to have an 18th team, we would have to have a good hard look at a second New Zealand team.

"Eighteen teams is a lot more dynamic in terms of how you can configure the draw. It means another rivalry in another key market for us, wherever that might be. It means new fans. It means we could have conferences and pools. These are all good options to explore.

"But that's a piece of analysis for another time, let's first look at the bridge from 16 to 17.

"Queensland is a really important market for us. We would like to give all stakeholders clarity on expansion by the middle of the year."

Nick Livermore from the Brisbane Bombers and Steve Johnson from Ipswich Jets have joined forces to bid for the NRL’s 17th licence. Picture: Richard Walker.
Nick Livermore from the Brisbane Bombers and Steve Johnson from Ipswich Jets have joined forces to bid for the NRL’s 17th licence. Picture: Richard Walker.

Abdo and V'landys have made it clear they will not push expansion if it cannibalises the Broncos, Cowboys or Titans, but previous NRL data suggests a second Brisbane team is financially attractive.

NRL strategic project boss Lachlan Smith is currently undertaking a fresh analysis of the impact of a second Brisbane team in the southeast Queensland market.

Brisbane Jets bid chief Nick Livermore is adamant another club in Queensland can be a money-spinner for the NRL, even if they are forced to introduce a bye weekend with no additional TV game for Channel 9 and Fox Sports.

"The additional revenue can be generated by broadcasting dollars and the value created by viewership and commercial investment," Livermore said.

"I remember David Gyngell (former Nine boss) saying back in 2013 that he would pay an extra $100 million over five years for a second Brisbane team, which equates to $20m a year.

"A figure of $50 million today would not be outlandish by any means if you are assessing the value of a second Brisbane team."

Brisbane Firehawks CEO Brian Torpy added: "For us we think a second team is a no-brainer. There are 2.5 million people in greater Brisbane ... and a lot of people in Brisbane aren't Broncos fans."

Originally published as Revealed: $50 million expansion coup as NRL eyes 18 teams


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