Super 14 expansion hinges on broadcasters appetite




The expansion of the Super 14 to a Super15 or more will depend on the broadcasters willingness to part with increased money for the expanded product.

ARU boss John O’Neill yesterday told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organization was committed to expanding the Super 14 but ultimately whether the Super 14 becomes a Super15, Super16 or Super18 in the next few years will be determined by the size of broadcasters’ pockets.

O’Neill made it known that he wants a Super Rugby team based in Parramatta (in NSW, Australia) and a feeder team that involves Pacific Island players on the Gold Coast.

He also wants a team in Japan which will more than likely be in Tokyo.

South Africa are known to want a sixth team for the Eastern Cape as well which means that if everyone gets their wish a Super18 is on the cards.

All of this however depends on how much the broadcasters are prepared to pay when SANZAR submit their proposal in or around June.

“Our thinking and desire to expand Super Rugby, involving more teams, a round and a half, with content going from 15 to 23 or 24 weeks, has not changed,” O’Neill said yesterday.

“We are on a timetable under our existing broadcast deal to have a proposal in front of the broadcasters by June 30, because the deal expires at the end of 2010.

“At the moment, we won’t know what will happen until we find out what they are willing to pay. The situation is that Super Rugby will be expanded if the economics stack up.”

The deal also hinges on whether the broadcasters will want to offer a better financial deal to the SANZAR partners for extra content but also after New Zealand & South Africa pulled their top players out of the tournaments in 2007 which devalued the product.

If there are more rounds and players are already being rested because they play too much rugby surely more Super Rugby  matches will lead to more resting of players even if the number of byes are tripled for example.

“We have to be careful, because with the last broadcasting deal in 2006 we put more content on the table – from 69 to 95 games – but we got in relative terms less money and more overhead,” O’Neill said.

“So you create an extra team called Western Force, which involved an extra $5 million a year cost for the ARU, and on average the ARU received about $9 million less per annum in broadcast revenue. That’s not a formula which is very attractive.

“If we are going to put more content on the table, we’ve got to get in relative terms enough of an uplift to cover the cost of the new content, and leave some over.

“Whether it is Supersport in South Africa, Fox Sport in Australia or Sky TV in New Zealand, the broadcasters are going to tell us. Ultimately their capacity to pay will determine whether we can afford to expand.”

Officials from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa met in Sydney yesterday to discuss expansion and also discussed expanding the finals which led to a fall out last year when South Africa insisted that their top two teams qualified for an expanded final regardless of where they finished on the table.

The ARU still want an expanded finals series for the 2010 season and they say that they will continue to push New Zealand and South Africa for it.

O’Neill says that it is imperative that SANZAR provides something attractive for the broadcasters .

“My concern is that if we don’t get an expansion of some sort in place by 2011, then it will be at least another five years before anything happens,” O’Neill said.

“The economy will recover, and if we don’t do anything, we could be in the position of wondering why we didn’t expand. Having run a bank during the last big downturn, I know this is not the time for panic.

” It is the time for balanced judgment. But in the end, it is like the household budget. You can’t live beyond your means.”

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