So... will the NRL return to Perth? The ongoing struggle for the NRL to attract fans and funding sounds like the biggest impediment to WA expansion.
As the State of Origin show rolls into WA, one thing stands in the way of an NRL team in Perth
By Tom Wildie
Posted Tue at 7:20am
With Origin II an effective sell-out, the talk about a Perth NRL side is sure to rear its head. AAP: Darren England
It will be history in the making. An NRL State of Origin match — arguably the biggest sporting rivalry in Australia — will take place in Perth this weekend.
Holding an Origin game at a neutral venue is not a new thing, but it will be first time Western Australia has hosted the marquee event.
As the Origin show rolls into town, and with the game an effective sell-out, the inevitable discussion about whether Perth should have its own NRL side will rear its head.
The expansion of rugby league into staunch AFL territory is not a new conversation.
Indeed, the WA Government has made clear its desire to see an NRL side located in Perth whenever any expansion takes place.
That is not going to happen until at least 2023, when the current broadcast deal is renegotiated, given uncertainty around the magnitude of the next deal.
The struggle for fans and funding
The NRL is currently enjoying its biggest broadcast deal on record, valued at $1.8 billion until 2022, but there are concerns this may be the high-water mark for NRL broadcast rights.
Foxtel — a key player in any rights deal — has already flagged it would have to prioritize some sports over others as it struggles to adapt to a highly competitive market disrupted by streaming services like Netflix.
The size of the next deal will directly impact whether the code decides to add a 17th team, relocate one of its struggling Sydney sides to a different state or maintain the status quo.
Unlike the AFL, which enjoys huge match attendance figures, the NRL struggles to attract large numbers of fans to games.
AFL v NRL in attendances and TV ratings
The footy code war in cumulative attendances and TV ratings
https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/mtQUe/9/? ... height=500
TV ratings (FTA and pay TV) and attendance figures are cumulative from March 8 to August 5, 2018.
Source: AFLtables.com; TVtonight.com.au
EMBED: NRL and AFL TV ratings vs attendances
As a result, clubs depend heavily on the Australian Rugby League Commission for funding.
In 2016, only three teams made a profit across the NRL and only one of those was in New South Wales, where 10 of the 16 teams are based.
The arguments for a team in Perth are clear: A stand-alone timeslot, which in broadcast land is a strong bargaining chip when re-negotiating its rights deal; and a permanent NRL presence in a city dominated by AFL.
The AFL regularly draws big crowds to Perth Stadium. Could the NRL do the same?
Supplied: Perth Stadium
But the overwhelming concern for any club, new or relocated, is whether there is the support in Western Australia to sustain it.
Overcoming history and a worrying trend
That is not to say there is not a base of supporters — four of the five highest attended sporting events at Perth Oval were rugby league matches, including the 2016 Test Match between the Kangaroos and New Zealand.
Whether that level of support, or anything even close to it, could be sustained is the big question.
A Test match between the Kangaroos and New Zealand at Perth Oval in 2016 drew a big crowd.
AAP: Richard Wainwright
The Western Reds, Perth's only NRL side to date, attracted strong crowds at the WACA Ground until it defected to the Super League and was ultimately axed as part of a peace deal between the rival codes.
But the recent history of ball sports outside of the AFL in WA will not be attractive reading for any prospective side.
The Western Force was axed from Super Rugby in 2017 on the back of poor results and dwindling attendances, and the Perth Glory — despite sitting top of the A-League for most of last season — has battled to attract crowds of more than 10,000 on a consistent basis.
Average attendances at major codes
Code 2019 2018 2017
AFL 36,341 36,682 35,202
NRL 16,050 16,414 15,783
Super Rugby 11,311 11,004 11,434
A-League 10,899 10,912 12,650
In a city where AFL sides West Coast and Fremantle dwarf all sporting opposition, attracting ongoing crowds for a league franchise will be a challenge.
This makes the next broadcast deal crucial in determining if Perth will be home to a NRL side in the near future.
We are four years away from a decision, but the conversation is well and truly underway.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-18/ ... tion=sport