2 days ago
The speculation about one or two new teams in the NRL post 2012 has suddenly become a whole lot more interesting - with a serious bid by a Brisbane consortium being developed.
The concern I have is that all the groups preparing bids - NSW Central Coast, Ipswich, Central Queensland and Perth among them - may well be wasting their time, and money.
Sometime between now and the end of March, the whole way the game is administered will change, and change radically.
While the game will be managed by an independent commission, the 16 current NRL clubs will have a significant share in the ownership of the game - and one assumes that would give the clubs a strong say, if not a right of veto, over any expansion.
The current clubs have shown no common interest in expansion - indeed many are clearly opposed to it. For instance, the Broncos and the Titans would hardly be enthusiastic about a second Brisbane team eating and competing in both the corporate market and fan base. Other clubs oppose expansion because it means cutting television and other revenue 18 ways not 16!
Time may also get in the way of 2013 expansion. The new television rights agreement won't be in place until late this year - so any decision on expansion probably won't come until after the 2011 season. That would give any new franchises effectively a year to get up and running.
With that heavy qualification, the second Brisbane bid does add to the "contest" if there is one...
The driving forces behind it are a group of Brisbane businessmen including one of the key players in the Thoroughbreds, which until now has been a major supporter of the Broncos, and the son of the veteran QRL CEO, Ross Livermore.
Today the Brisbane Courier Mail - Murdoch owned - has given the bid maximum media coverage, including a story that the bid team want Mal Meninga as inaugural coach.
The serious aspect of the bid is that, if successful, it would enable the NRL to schedule a Suncorp Stadium match each weekend during the premiership season. And it would be a major television ratings boost in the all important Brisbane market.
The argument that Brisbane cannot cope with a second team in the NRL is a weak one. The Broncos currently draw at most home games double or more what most NRL clubs get. The sponsorship base is a strong one.
This bid seems to have been in the planning for five or six months - but it has been kept well under the wraps.
If, and I stress if, the game decides on expansion in 2013, or 2014, then the Brisbane bid will be in with a real chance.