Fantasy v Reality

A few weeks ago the NRL announced that it had requested that the online video-hosting site, Youtube, remove all its NRL related video clips posted without the NRL?s express permission. In essence, the NRL was saying ?If you haven?t paid for it, you can?t have it?.

The initial reaction from online NRL fans seemed to be disappointment bordering on anger as evidenced in a discussion in League Unlimited?s own Front Row Forums. Youtube held hundreds of NRL clips from re-living special moments to player and team tributes. Youtube was also an easy way to prick the interest in Rugby League in the uninitiated. One could simply email the clip address to the interested party and their interest could grow from there.

So, in essence, Youtube was a free marketing tool for the NRL, which makes the NRL?s decision to force the removal of the clips difficult to fathom. But when attempting to come to grips with what seems a very narrow-minded decision it is important to comprehend the thinking behind this decision, one only needs to step back in time a couple of years to the NRL?s handing of the online fantasy game VNRL(Virtual National Rugby League) and the NRL?s own Fantasy NRL online game.

VNRL was in its infancy but its popularity was rising very quickly. The problem with VNRL was that one part of the game, Forward Tries, used NRL stats for to calculate them. This caused a drama for the NRL who demanded that VNRL stop using the NRL?s stats or pay for the the "privilege". In the end, it got too much and VNRL was put to sleep. At the same moment, the NRL in its wisdom decided to mothball its own Fantasy NRL for reasons unknown. Pencil in ?too hard basket?.

Online sports Fantasy games are an integral part of the modern sports follower. The NFL (American Football) has multiple online fantasy games available through the NFL itself, Fox, Yahoo and others, the NBA (Basketball) has numerous available as does the NHL (Hockey) and Major League baseball. The EPL (English Soccer) has numerous fantasy games available of which one is their own Fantasy game which has over one million participants from more than 50 different countries.

The point is that these online Fantasy games are fun to play and increase the interest level for the sport in the participants. Online Fantasy sport is a simple concept; you are allotted players via a draft, either automated or live with all the participants in your competition involved live, you then select a team each week from your allocated players, and points are earned via performance and/or actual scoring. What happens next is the beauty of Fantasy sport, the participants find themselves watching games intently that don?t involve the team they actually follow to see the production of their players in their Fantasy competition.

That simply increases viewing numbers. I for one have found that a passing interest in the NFL has morphed into where I now consider myself a fan of the sport. It happens slowly in the beginning but as the numbers of participants in online-Fantasy games grows, the number of people watching games on TV grows exponentially.

So, for the want of a few dollars, the NRL is selling out what could mean a steady increase in NRL interest that could become a flood of new and renewed interest in the near future.

It seems to me that the NRL has a problem with the Internet. Rather than use the internet to propagate interest in ?The Greatest Game of All", the NRL sees the Internet as a way to force people to pay for NRL coverage. It won?t work, it will never work and all it will do is stifle the spread of interest in the game of Rugby League world-wide.

To add to this is the NRL?s seeming inability to answer a simple email. One wonders if the person charged with overseeing the NRL?s interests online sees the the World Wide Web as a tool of Satan.

Wake up to yourself NRL. Fantasy games and Youtube aren?t the domain of a small group of nerds, they are mainstream now and its time to accept that fact and run with it. Start embracing the internet to spread the word and most of all, don?t be scared of the Internet, embrace it and it will endorse Rugby League in return.