Off the Wall

STATE OF ORIGIN MUST NOT BE FOR SALE

The Australian Rugby League Commission needs to ensure that one of the  the game's greatest assets, State of Origin, does not end up being devalued and damaged.

State of Origin must not be put up for sale to the highest venue bidder - yet it would appear the ARLC might even be more keen to do so than the former custodian, the ARL, was.

If reports are accurate, the Victorian Government is offering something over $2 million a year to host one Origin game a year - just as long as it is not the third one!

Under the ARL policy, Queensland and New South Wales were "encouraged" to give up one game when they had two games in a series (every second year) so one match could be played in Melbourne. The Melbourne opener in a couple of weeks time was given up by New South Wales.

The new controlling body, the ARLC, has full responsibility for the game, and that includes State of  Origin.

It has been seeking expressions of interest for staging Origin matches beyond this year.
Unsurprisingly, Victoria has put its hand up. It always does when it bidding is around for major events.

The question the ARLC needs to answer is simply this - what damage to the State of Origin "product" is done when it is not played in the State of Origin states?

And is that damage offset by the couple of million Victoria has on offer?

If it is doing its job, the ARLC will get more than $2 million value from the Origin product when it finalises the next free and pay television agreement is finalised in the coming weeks.

The current agreement is appalling and wholly inadequate. I have said that time and time again.

Nowhere is that more evident than it is when it comes to the "value" of Origin.

That must change - and must help deliver a $1 billion plus five year agreement.

But Origin will only remain a success story for the game in every way if it is respected and treasured.

And that means it must be centred on what it is - a three match contest between the Blues and the Maroons, played in Sydney and Brisbane before capacity houses.

Making it effectively a three match, three city contest puts its greatest strength at risk.
And all for a couple of million dollars!

If the game gets the television agreement it deserves, the extra revenue that will flow into the game will be around $100 million a year....and that puts the Victorian $2 million or so offer in context.

The argument that playing Origin in Melbourne promotes the game in Victoria is simply nonsense.

The best way to promote the game in Victoria is to make the Melbourne Storm success story a Victorian rugby league success story.

Rugby league's past, its present, and its future, is a strong game in New South Wales and Queensland. Growth elsewhere is welcome, but it is not as central to the game's continuing vitality as its strength in the two rugby league states is.

These days just about every Origin match in Brisbane and Sydney are sell outs.

Taking one game to Melbourne each year - and especially game one or two - robs about 78,000 fans in Sydney and 52,000 in Brisbane of the chance to attend it.

The game is not in so dire a straight that it has to sell off a precious asset for a couple of million dollars, without any evidence of wider long term benefit.

It should not have done so in the past - and it must not do so in the future.
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