Off the Wall

Whether we like it or not, rugby league is more dependent on any sport other than horse racing for revenue from gambling.

The majority of NRL clubs continue to count on the grants from their licensed clubs, even though those grants have been slashed virtually across the board in the last year or two. There are also probably hundreds of rugby league teams right across NSW and Queensland that depend on their local licensed leagues club for their viability.

That is why I am astounded there has been a deafening silence from the hierarchy of the NRL and the ARL in response to one of the most significant reports on gambling - and especially poker machine gambling - that has ever been published.

On Wednesday the Productivity Commission - a federal government authority - published its interim report on gambling in Australia. While it covered all forms of gambling including betting on horse racing, lotteries, and on line betting, the focus of its recommendations was the poker machine industry - which has annual turnover of close to $11 billion, or almost 60 per cent of the total "spend" on gambling in Australia.

Just how much of that is put through machines in licensed leagues clubs is not clear - but it would run into hundreds of millions, if not a billion or two.

If the Productivity Commission's recommendations are implemented - and the antigambling lobby is demanding that they be implemented - the revenue stream from licensed leagues clubs will be smashed. And even if half the recommendations are implemented then the revenue stream to football teams - senior and junior alike - will be cut significantly.

That is why the apparent silence from the games administrators is troubling - but hardly surprising.

Hardly surprising because one suspects the majority are in London for the start of the Four Nations competition! Travelling of course at the expense of the game!

And speaking about "expense" did you notice in the Kangaroos team photo there were something like TEN officials - who are also there at the expense of the game?

And because we have a divided administration who would speak for the game? David Gallop may speak for the NRL, but he does not speak for the ARL and the state and local bodies. Geoff Carr might speak for the ARL, but he does not speak for the 16 NRL clubs.

Is it any wonder that on the major policy issues on the political agenda that can impact on rugby league, there is a deafening silence from the people charged with securing rugby league's future?

The proposed limits on poker machines will inevitably be up for political discussion in the coming months. Regardless of whether we are comfortable with the reliance of many clubs, and junior teams, on gambling revenue, the reality is that if that revenue was slashed, there are few options available to replace it.

Can you imagine Andrew Demetriou or John O'Neill not expressing views on any issue that would directly impact on the viability of the AFL and the ARU and their entities.

The impact of gaming machine controls on AFL and rugby union clubs - and other sports - would be much less than on rugby league clubs and affiliates.

On this challenge for the game - and that is what it will be in the future - we need better leadership than what we are getting today.

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