Off the Wall

If you managed to catch the interview with the AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou, on the ABC Insiders programme last Sunday you will surely have been impressed - and concerned.

Impressed at just how much he is control of the AFL's television rights negotiations, and concerned that rugby league is in danger of being squeezed yet again.

Demetriou is an impressive operator - confident, certain, and absolutely in control of the AFL.

That is where the "concern" comes into the equation in my view.

The AFL is well advanced in its television rights negotiations - which take effect in 2012. It is now likely they will be completed before rugby league's progress beyond initial discussions.

The other concern is that because Demetriou speaks with authority - thanks to the Independent Commission which runs the AFL - he is able to lay down ground rules that I hear the NRL simply won't be able to follow unless, and until, we get our own independent commission.

The most important point he made was that the AFL will not surrender to a television network the right to decide when matches will be shown! He even suggested the AFL would take a lower few if necessary to protect that right.

Wouldn't we like that!

At present Channel Nine calls all the shots. The clubs and the fans don't get a look in.

What is apparent to me, and must surely be event apparent to the Neanderthals holding up the establishment of an independent commission to run rugby league, is that we will get the best deal for club, players and fans if, and only if, the game is run by such a body.

The pity is that recent viewing numbers on free to air and pay have been exceptional. The Broncos v Eels game last drew a season best audience of 1.2 million...and almost 40,000 in the stands! And the round 21 Eels v Roosters on pay attracted a staggering 366,000 viewers...a season high as well.

That is why we need an independent commission running the game now.

The AFL is obviously close to finalising its deal...we need to get ours under way sooner rather than later!

And that is the real message I gained from Andrew Demetriou's forthright interview!

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