Off the Wall

The Weekend Australian published a piece of AFL propaganda which, at a cursory glance, looked very impressive.

The AFL has a clear lead over the NRL on total revenue, club grants, club memberships and match attendances. It did so as part of its campaign to secure around $1 billion for its next television rights deal - with the current agreement expiring at the end of this season.

What the AFL did not include was the one figure that really counts when it comes to television agreements - viewer numbers.

That number really evens the card up - and demonstrates what a disgraceful deal the NRL received from Nine and pay television when the last one was negotiated in 2007.

The aggregate television numbers of the two codes are about the same - yet the AFL gets $250 million more than the NRL does over five years.

And it is not hard to see how that difference impacts on NRL clubs - last year the AFL gave its clubs $140 million, the NRL gave its clubs $55 million. Though the NRL also provides funding for marketing etc.

We are never going to match the AFL when it comes to total attendances - AFL matches drew 7.4 million, the NRL 3.9 million. Then again Melbournians would attend a letter opening!

One of the figures the AFL released that was somewhat misleading was club memberships - AFL 614,000, the NRL 144,000. The NRL figures don't include members of leagues clubs affiliated with NRL clubs. When I last checked the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane had over 50,000 members.

But the AFL has another disadvantage - it cannot get its Friday night free to air match shown live! The NRL now does so, and will surely be looking for a Saturday night live free to air match as well.

The area where the NRL absolutely trounces the AFL is pay television viewing numbers.

That must be reflected in the next broadcast agreement.

And there is one "area" the NRL now has it all over the AFL.

We are still not perfect when it comes to "players behaving badly" issues.

But when you look at how the AFL has hopelessly handled issues surrounding St Kilda, and the games leading player manager, then you can say with certainty that in recent years the NRL has learned a lot - and the AFL has a hell of a lot to learn!

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