Off the Wall

There has been a wide diversity of views expressed since David Gallop said he would "talk" to Channel Nine about shifting State of Origin matches to Monday night.

Some coaches and players are for it, some dead against it, and a number joined today by the Storm's Craig Bellamy, want stand alone Origin weekends. And the retiring CEO of the QRL, Ross Livermore, is a stand alone weekend fan.

I am surprised that more coaches and officials have not asked the obvious question - why consult Channel Nine first? And I am surprised David Gallop did not say he would consult clubs, coaches, players and sponsors, rather than head straight to Channel Nine. Or should I be surprised at all?

Today we see the first real signs of what the game will be like when the Independent Commission (IC) is in place, and News and the ARL exit ownership of the NRL.

The sixteen NRL club chairman and CEO's have revealed today they intend to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss the game's most important issues - before the IC is in place.

And the issues they plan to discuss are in line with the issues I raised a couple of days ago - Origin timing, the length of the premiership season, and additional teams. And they will discuss broadcast rights which I raise with some regularity - and the good old salary cap!

While the media has been focussing on who will be on the IC, and its role, the actual "ownership" of the game has largely been overlooked.

Unless things have changed radically during the drawn out negotiation process, the real "ownership" of the game will effectively be vested in the sixteen NRL clubs - with safeguards in place for the NSWRL, QRL and so on.

Fans today could be excused for thinking the game is actually owned by Channel Nine!

Under the existing television deal, Nine would have to agree to a switch in Origin nights, but before the CEO rushes off to ask if Nine would be prepared to shift Origin to Monday nights, one hopes he will consult the game's main stakeholders first.

While Nine may have the final say under the existing contract, it is not a good look to be seen to almost be at the beck and call of David Gyngell on an issue many sectors of the game ought to have a say on.

That is why I welcome the decision by the clubs to meet and try to develop a common approach to key issues.

When the IC is in place, it will have responsibility for the day to day running of the game. But it is the NRL clubs who will have a real say on some of the most important issues of all - and expansion is an important issue.

Hopefully, the clubs will insist on one important change when broadcast rights are negotiated.

The influence of Nine over scheduling, and so many other aspects of the game, is not Nine's fault. It is the fault off officials, past and present, who have surrendered far too much, for far too little.

Hopefully, the IC, and the 16 clubs will insist that the post-2012 rights holders don't determine the weekend schedule, and don't have an effective veto over issues such as the timing of Origin matches etc.

And speaking of Nine, you can tell television rights negotiations are looming.

This Sunday Nine will telecast LIVE into Melbourne the Storm v Rabbitohs match!

Perhaps we should have "annual" television rights negotiations?

Nine clearly knows it has a contest when it comes to the free to air rights from 2013 onwards.

The more competitive that contest is the better!

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