This report investigates the epic battle between the Australian Rugby League which has been around for 87 years and the Super League concept for the control of Rugby League in Australia. One man, Mr Rupert Murdoch, is trying to take over and run a rebel Super League to enhance his power and for financial gain. This Super League is proposed to run in 1996 with a 10 team competition as its prospectus. This report reviews the history of the Australian Rugby League, the battle between Mr.Murdoch and Mr.Packer, the battle of who controls pay television, the players future and junior development. This conflict is mainly based on power, greed and money. The two protagonist's are prepared to go to any lengths to achieve supremacy. I have researched archives, newspapers, pamphlets and watched television to accumulate information of this divisive conflict.
The History of the A.R.L
The Australian Rugby League originated in 1908 which was then known as the N.S.W. Rugby League.The game of Rugby League was born long ago and faraway, on the 29th of August 1895 in the stately George Hotel Huddersfield Yorkshire, England. Originally 15 a side teams were reduced to 13 in 1906 and Rugby League's trademark the play the ball was introduced. The changes large and small laid the foundations for the fast moving thrilling game that Rugby League has become. On the evening of August 8 the N.S.W Rugby League was formed with a secret meeting at Sydney's Batemans Hotel. The men driving the new game were: The entrepreneur James Joseph Giltinan, the great cricketer Victor Trumper, the influential politician Henry Clammond Hoyle. The supreme master stroke being the signing of Rugby Unions champion Herbert Henry Dally Messenger at a fee of 180 pounds. In the summer of 1907-08 more meetings resulting in the formation of 9 clubs: Glebe, Newtown, South Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, Western Suburbs, Balmain, North Sydney, Newcastle which only lasted until 1909, and Cumberland. However Cumberland had trouble enticing sufficient players and was forced to amalgamate with Western Suburbs the following season. Rugby League's first season began on Easter Monday 1908 on a wave of unrivalled enthusiasm. To South Sydney went the honour of being Rugby Leagues first champions 14-12 victors over Eastern Suburbs in the premiership final. Over the years more teams have been introduced to make an expanded competition, to strengthen and promote the game locally, nationally and at this present time internationally. The teams that have joined since the inaugural competition include:
1910 Annandale which folded in 1920.
1920 University which folded in 1937.
1921 St George.
1947 Manly and Parramatta.
1967 Cronulla and Penrith.
1982 Canberra and Illawarra.
1983 Newtown were expelled due to financial problems.
1988 Brisbane, Gold Coast and Newcastle.
During the 1994 Rugby League season the N.S.W. Rugby League passed a motion to expand the 16 team competition to a 20 team competition incorporating a team from Western Australia, 2 more teams from Queensland and a team from New Zealand. It was also agreed to change the name from the N.S.W Rugby League to the Australian Rugby League also known as the A.R.L as a true reflection of what it represents. The 1995 season promised to be the pinnacle of the league's endeavours with the expanded 20 teams which included 4 new teams namely:
Auckland Warriors from New Zealand.
North Queensland Cowboy's based in Townsville.
South Queensland Crushers located in Brisbane.
Western Reds from the far west Perth.
Rugby League as a truly Australian story is abound with wonderful characters such as - Messenger, Horder, Stehr, Churchill, Gasnier, Raper, Reddy, Fulton, Lewis, Sterling. The Immortals are recognised as Rugby League's finest post-war exponents, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, John Raper and Bob Fulton had a creative excellence that comes along all to rarely.
The Conflict Between The A.R.L and Super League
1995 provided the League with so much optimism, to realise their vision of a 20 team competition and watch it come to fruition. On the 1st April 1995 the unsuspecting Australian Rugby League was out manoeuvred in a coup when the Super League announced its intention to form a rebel super league. This super league was a breakaway league with its own constitution and vision statement. The Super League had enlisted high profile rugby league players to endorse and persuade current players to sign with the rebel league without the knowledge of the A.R.L The rebel league backed by Mr Rupert Murdoch and the News Ltd. Corporation made huge financial offers as an inducement for players to sign to play in their competition. The A.R.L then counter attacked signing up loyal A.R.L players with the financial backing of Mr Kerry Packer and Optus Vision. This conflict was no longer just about Rugby League, the intervention of these two omnipotent individuals brought a new dimension, the struggle for power and total dominance for the pay television broadcasting rights.
Mr Rupert Murdoch verus Mr Kerry Packer
4.1 Murdoch, Rupert (1931- )
Australian-born media magnate, who boosted the circulation of many of his newspapers by creating a tabloid mix of sex, crime, and sports stories topped with giant sensationalised headlines. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, and educated at Oxford University. He became a United States citizen in 1985.
Murdoch returned to Australia in 1954 and took charge of the Adelaide News (sold in 1987 and closed in 1992), a marginally profitable afternoon daily paper. Applying his Daily Express experience, he created the giant sensationalised headlines that were to become his trademark, and the paper's readership soared.
Murdoch started building his media empire with the purchase of a Perth Sunday newspaper in 1956, and in 1960 he entered the Sydney market by acquiring the Sydney Daily and Sunday Mirror. His hard-sell promotions and lurid stories boosted the circulation's of both papers. In 1964 Murdoch founded Australia's first national newspaper, the Australian, which featured national and international news, investigative reporting, and local issues. By 1968 his Australian empire of newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting stations was worth an estimated $50 million.
Murdoch then bought control of the Sunday News of the World, a sensationalist London paper aimed at the working classes, and the foundering London daily Sun, a stodgy liberal paper. Circulation soared, and he went on to purchase other British newspapers and broadcasting interests. In 1981 he acquired the renowned London Times and Sunday Times. His holdings expanded to include Fox Broadcasting, for which he assumed the chairman and chief executive roles in 1992, and TV Guide (acquired in 1988). By 1989 Murdoch's empire included newspapers, television stations, a movie studio, publishing houses, magazines, and large shares in news services. But by 1991 his Australia-based News Corp. had also accumulated immense debts, which resulted in his selling most of his American magazine holdings.
4.2 Packer Kerry (1937- )
The family controlled media group known as Australian Consolidated Press Ltd. He controls of the media empire that includes A.C.P and Channel 9 and has interests in newspapers, sub and provincial, Sydney and Melbourne television radio stations in Victoria and Western Australia, land development, Leisure Resorts and television and film productions. In 1977 Mr Kerry Packer offered top cricketers lucrative contracts to play in teams for his World Series Cricket.
The Vision of the Super League
5.1 Selected clubs were presented on 6th February 1995 with a 36 page proposal and slide presentation of Super League's vision of the game, not only in Australia but throughout the world. The proposal addressed all the problems currently experienced in the game by players and clubs and provided an exciting plan to guarantee that the super league competition would be the best rugby league competition in the world. The Super League would be played in the initial years in the strong holds of Australia, England and New Zealand culminating with a World Series that will be played in various venues and televised throughout the world.
5.2 Ten teams comprised of the: Auckland, Broncos, Bulldogs, Canberra, Newcastle Mariners, Penrith Panthers, Perth Reds, Sharks, Townsville and another team yet to be announced, the tip is a Sydney North Shore consortium. Melbourne and Adelaide will increase the number of teams to 12 within 2 years. The harsh reality is that clubs cannot compete, especially in the current chaotic climate, without a substantial revenue base. Under Super League clubs are guaranteed that they will receive at least $4.5 Million annually, the clubs also have enormous opportunities to receive major sponsorship involvement with companies whose products extend throughout the world. Clubs not joining the super league would miss out on the opportunity to participate in the best competition in the world and the financial security that goes with that opportunity. Super league suggest that only the clubs that join will be assured of there survival and there participation as a strong competitive team.
5.3 Super League assure that 3 out of the 5 games played each week will be free to air whilst the other 2 will be available on pay television. Spectators and supporters will be well taken care of with more football games to watch at the game or on pay television locally, nationally and internationally. Super League also promise to have better facilities and venues for spectators to enjoy.
5.4 The players themselves although thrown into turmoil have emerged with larger player payments and enormous sign-on fees as the A.R.L and Super League contest for their signatures. The tactics applied by both camps were nothing short of tenacious, each reporting who they had signed as a propaganda exercise.
5.5 The development of the game of junior league level is the big winner under Super League. Under the agreement clubs will be required to spend $500000 per year on junior development. The Super League is also in the course of preparing a major junior league development program under which it will develop the game through out the game this will be separately funded by Super League.
Some of the actual Super League concepts have not been made public as yet, the A.R.L. using innuendo as a means of scoring points.
In 1995 it was decided by the High Court that super league would be able to start its competition in March of 96, But later a win by the A.R.L made it unlikely that Super League would be able to start untill the year 2000. This win was to be short lived as the High Court dismissed the A.R.L and made it possible for Super League to start its competition in 1997.
Conclusion and Recommendations
In conclusion this epic battle is far from over as both camps vie for the monopolistic control of Rugby League both as a sport and a valuable marketable commodity. Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch are both used to winning and getting what they want. The A.R.L. believe Rugby League can not be owned by anyone, it is the peoples game whereas Super League believe they have the right to exploit Rugby League for the good of the game as there reason. The A.R.L. spent 87 years building this great Australian sporting icon which encompasses cameraderie and mateship, national pride, humour and courage, bravery and skill, spectacular feats of athleticism and great drama. The traditions have been established the legacy should remain.
Can Rugby League be bought or sold out ? In my opinion the values of life are not for sale at any price. Rugby League has evolved over the years, nurtured into the dynamic game as it is today. What right does anyone have to take-over and exploit rugby league for their own financial benefit. Some of the Super League concepts have merit but I believe the A.R.L. should run Rugby League "The Greatest Game of All".
The Newcastle Herald.
The Sunday Telegraph.
Books and Magazines:-
The Kangaroos Ian Heads.
The Rebels of Rugby Bob Power.
Action '85 Gary Lester.
Concise Australian Encyclopaedia Angus and Robertson
Green and Gold Heroes Rugby League Week Publisher.
Rugby League Week Magazines.
This report investigates the epic battle between the Australian Rugby League and the Super League concept for the control of Rugby League in Australia. This report reviews the history of the Australian Rugby League, the battle between Mr.Murdoch and Mr.Packer, the battle of who controls pay television, the players future and junior development. This conflict is mainly based on power, greed and money.
The main aspects included in this report are the topics surrounding the controversial Super League. I explore the history of the A.R.L. as opposed to the rebel league's vision, the confrontation of the A.R.L. and Super League and some background information on the two protagonists Mr Rupert Murdoch and Mr Kerry Packer.
In conclusion the traditions and loyalties established by the A.R.L. into the game as we know it today are on the brink of being destroyed because of another mans vision for power and money.