NRL and Touch Football Australia to merge
A groundbreaking alliance between rugby league and touch football is set to skyrocket the game's participation numbers beyond a million players.
NRL and Touch Football Australia will be announced early next week - making it the largest strategic alliance between two sports in Australia.
It comes after two years of negotiations, which have intensified in the past six months since the appointment of Dave Smith as NRL chief executive, and brings together the sports after they effectively split 40 years ago.
The alliance is a strategic masterstroke in the NRL's battle with the AFL because it provides a non-contact version of the sport under its own banner.
There is a small hitch to the new relationship, though, with the popular OzTag - which has more than 130,000 participants - failing to reach an agreement with the NRL.
It is understood the NRL refused to pay the asking price OzTag operators wanted to take over the commercial rights to their sport. The NRL version of tag football is the lesser-known version of the code called ''league tag''.
Nevertheless, the benefit for touch football is enormous, especially for a sport with such a strong presence at the grassroots level.
''We're very happy with the alliance,'' one senior TFA official said. ''Joining the NRL means we can broaden our appeal, profile and reach as part of a bigger business. It gives us more opportunities than ever before for our sport. It's been a long process to get this far, but a worthwhile one. Touch grew out of rugby league in the mid-1960s and the sports have been separate since then. But this will allow us to take touch into new markets.''