World Cup win can boost Australia rugby league growth

Jonathan Thurtson (R) of Australia in action during the Rugby League World Cup final Australia won their 10th world title in Manchester at the weekend

Australia's win in the Rugby League World Cup final has provided the perfect impetus for the sport to push on with its growth plans in the country, says the boss of the nation's premier club competition.

Rugby league is one of Australia's most popular sports, particularly in the east of the country, and has an image as a "people's game".

Former banker David Smith is the chief executive of the Australian Rugby League Commission, which manages the premier championship, the National Rugby League (NRL).

"We are all thrilled - Australia is a sports-mad country which likes our national teams to do well," says the Welshman, a former chief executive of Lloyds Bank in Australia.

"The international game is an important part of rugby league, and we are keen to develop the national game, and strengthen what it means to put on the green-and-gold shirt."

Girls and mums

Mr Smith says that at club level the NRL is in healthy shape - "as good as it has ever been" - with vibrant games continuing to attract large crowds and booming TV revenues.

David Smith with Australia rugby league team coach Tim Sheens. David Smith (right) has a clear strategy for growth

"In our heartlands we are a very important and significant part of the community," says Mr Smith, who had an international business career spanning more than 25 years before moving into sport.

"We are a big part of Australian society - we are substantial and we are set to get bigger."

He adds: "We want to grow our sport at every level within a strong national framework, and increase the participation base to encourage people into the NRL, and into rugby league."

The NRL is providing funding to develop and strengthen the game across the wider grassroots level.

A major part of those plans includes the touch, or tag, version of the sport coming under the NRL banner, bringing in 550,000 participants, including 300,000 girls,

"Girls - and their mums - coming in means a broader base, and touch football also takes us into schools as well as into families," says the former British army engineer.

There has also been a review of how junior clubs in the country can develop the game with schools, and, he says, a much more competitive structure at that level has been put in place.

In addition, the state-based championship is to be expanded to 23 sides, and a Papua New Guinea team will compete in the 2014 Intrust Super Cup (formerly the Queensland Cup).

'Wonderful game'

Mr Smith, who took up his post this year, says the game in Australia is also conducting its biggest membership push, looking to double club members from the current 220,000 to more than 400,000 by 2017.

David Smith - NRL boss

  • Has a background in engineering
  • Began banking career in 1997
  • Senior roles with multi-national institutions Lloyds, UBS, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Grenfell
  • Appointed boss of the NRL in November 2012 and took up post in February 2013

"Our aim is to be the biggest sports community in Australia," he says. "We will have two million participants when you include touch rugby. Our community activities probably reach another million, so three million people are in touch with the game.

"A big push for us is to be more inclusive both at participation and at fan level - we want to be representative of the community,

"It is a wonderful game, and when people are exposed to it, they want to be more involved."

On the commercial side, the NRL is committed to growing its non-broadcast revenues, from their current 28% to 50% by 2018.

The current TV rights deal is worth AU$1.2bn (£670m; $1.1bn) - the biggest TV rights deal in Australian sports history.

Sydney Roosters fans celebrate winning the 2013 NRL Grand Final It is hoped to bring more females into a male-dominated sport

Meanwhile, the current salary cap, in place to create a competitive playing structure, is to be modernised, with consultation among major stakeholders currently taking place.

"We want to be modernised for the next 10 to 20 years," he says. "The salary cap has been an effective tool up until this point, it is an important foundation. Fundamentally we have to manage the clubs' salaries, while not stifling emerging talent coming through from below."

'Complex role'

During the World Cup in England he has been meeting people from football bodies, the Premier League and FA, to examine how talent is developed and the youth academy structure.

When Mr Smith took up his NRL post, there was Australian media comment focusing on the fact he did not have a background in rugby league but had played rugby union in Wales.

Cooper Cronk of the Maroons makes a break during game three of the ARL State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons this year Mr Smith says this year's annual State of Original game was a huge success

"I have leadership, business and organisational skills, and love of sport from the grassroots up," he says regarding this issue. "I am from a working class background and have an empathy with sports from village green level to top level.

Start Quote

We have not got to wait for the next World Cup to take advantage of the 2013 successes”

End Quote David Smith NRL

"It is an important, big and complex role. and I am privileged to have such a significant sports administration role. I know that fans and members sit on the same side of the table as me."

He says the World Cup has been a huge success, from a playing, commercial, and publicity point of view.

"I think the crowds have been better than expected, it has been more profitable than expected, and most importantly it has raised the profile of the game," he says, adding that the emergence of nations such as Fiji and the USA have been added bonuses.

Australia and New Zealand have put in a joint bid to run the 2017 event, as has South Africa, with a hosting decision in January 2014.

"I have been part of the bid process and would be very happy to pick up the baton in 2017, but we have not got to wait for the next World Cup to take advantage of the 2013 successes.

"We have to look at strengthening some of the emerging nations, and we have got to make the most of the international fixtures we have got, to get more games on the calendar so that next time round the ability has picked up in all nations."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:36:

    European markets have started the day steadily enough. There was some positive data from China with industrial profits growing at a stronger pace in the first half of 2014 than a year earlier. The biggest rise on the FTSE 100 so far is Reckitt Benckiser - up nearly 3% to 5220p - following its positive trading update.

    • The FTSE 100 is 0.17% higher at 6802.99
    • Germany's Dax is lower by 0.05% at 9639.04
    • France's Cac-40 is 0.30% higher at 4343.41
     
  2.  
    FRACKING LICENCES 08:29: BBC Radio 4

    Energy minister Matthew Hancock tells the Today programme there is "potentially" quite a bit of shale gas under the ground. That would be good news for our energy security, he adds. Areas need to be explored to see if there is shale gas in the ground first. Companies currently exploring for shale gas will then automatically be allowed to exploit it.

     
  3.  
    HEADLINES
    • Fracking licences to be awarded
    • Ryanair shares jump 5% on better results
    • Reckitt Benckiser profits up 16%
     
  4.  
    RYANAIR TRADING 08:24:

    Ryanair shares have jumped 5% in the wake of its statement earlier this morning, predicting higher profits.

     
  5.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:10:

    Asian stock markets are hovering near three-year highs, with China taking the lead after data showed a robust rise in profits earned by industrial firms. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 46% to 15529.4 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng is up 1% to 24,456.5.

     
  6.  
    YUKOS AWARD 08:04:
    Kordorkovsky

    Yukos was run by what was then Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The $50bn (£29.4bn) the Hague court is said by Reuters to be awarding the shareholders is half the $100bn they were asking for. The claim is from subsidiaries of Gibraltar-based Group Menatep. Menatep now exists as holding company GML and Khodorkovskyis no longer a shareholder either entity.

     
  7.  
    ARGENTINA DEBT 07:56: BBC Radio 4

    One more from Mr Caicedo on Argentina's debt woes. He says default will be very damaging for the country because it has been trying to normalise its relationships with capital markets and that will go out the window. He adds that will also mean Argentine provinces won't be able to go to the markets to raise cash by issuing bonds of their own - and that will start to feed into their ability to pay wages to government employees, among other things.

     
  8.  
    YUKOS AWARD 07:45:
    Logo

    Reuters has a report - citing unnamed sources - that the Hague's arbitration court has ruled in favour of a group of shareholders in former oil giant Yukos against Russia, awarding compensation of around $50bn. That's half the amount originally claimed.

     
  9.  
    RECKITT BENCKISER 07:37:
    A shelf full of Reckitt Benckiser products

    Reckitt Benckiser - which does a host of branded goods from condoms to cleaning fluid Cillit Bang - reports a 4% rise in sales for the past six months. Profits rose 16% to £1bn. The company has also decided to spin off its Suboxone pharmaceuticals business in the next 12 months, ending months of speculation over the shrinking division's future.

     
  10.  
    OVERPRICED HEALTHCARE 07:36: Radio 5 live

    Private healthcare is 15% overpriced, estimates Bupa. The healthcare group itself has been criticised in the past by regulators for lack of clarity around its policies. Bupa boss Damien Marmion says they're working on that: "We have addressed it substantially, but will continue [to deal with the matter]."

     
  11.  
    FRACKING LICENCES 07:27: Radio 5 live

    More on Fracking. David Hunter tells Wake up to Money the industry will obviously will need to regulated properly. "It is right that we are clear on how tight regulation should be," he says, but "it's also clear we should be spending more time assessing the potential of fracking" given energy security concerns, he adds.

     
  12.  
    MOTHERCARE FUTURE 07:20:
    Pushchairs on sale at a Mothercare store

    Mothercare has responded to the news US rival Destination Maternity has gone off the idea of bidding for it with a corporate shrug. A statement says it "notes" the offer withdrawal and also "notes" it has had no contact with Destination Maternity for about six weeks. It says under new boss Mark Newton-Jones it is now "fully focused" on its turnaround plan.

     
  13.  
    OVERPRICED HEALTHCARE 07:13: Radio 5 live
    Bupa sign

    Private healthcare is overpriced, says ... private healthcare provider Bupa. Damien Marmion, its managing director of UK Insurance. He says the whole industry is to blame, especially the price charged by hospitals. He says prices need to go down by about 15%.

     
  14.  
    RYANAIR TRADING 07:02:
    Ryanair plane landing

    Irish airline Ryanair reports better than expected first quarter earnings. Pre-tax profits rose to 223.6m euros (I£176.8m) in the three months to 30 June up from 88.5m euros a year earlier. Full-year profit guidance is up, too, to between 620m euros and 650m euros for the full year.

     
  15.  
    FRACKING LICENCES 06:49: Radio 5 live

    Fracking will not necessarily lead to lower energy prices, David Hunter from Schneider Electric tells Wake Up to Money. It is important that the UK assess the potential of fracking, especially given Europe's currently fractious [a-hem] relationship with Russia. It's more about energy security than lower prices, Mr Hunter says.

     
  16.  
    GSK BREAK-UP? 06:40:
    Horlicks jars

    The Financial Times goes with the boss of drugs giant GSK is considering breaking up the company, should its consumer healthcare division be worth more as a standalone company. And yes, that division owns Horlicks, as well as mega-brands like Aquafresh and Corsodyl.

     
  17.  
    ARGENTINA DEBT 06:32: BBC Radio 4

    More on Argentina's debt woes. It is risking falling into default for the second time in 12 years, says Carlos Caicedo, senior principal analyst on country risk at IHS Global Insight. In fact, this looks like the most likely outcome after the Argentine economic minister failed to arrive in New York for talks on Friday. Leading Hedge Fund NML Capital believes Argentina will definitely default on its loans, he adds, and the government's refusal to meet and talk with its creditors isn't helping matters.

     
  18.  
    ARGENTINA DEBT 06:23: Radio 5 live

    It is more than 10 years since Argentina announced it couldn't pay back its debts. Most bondholders accepted a deal to get back a small percentage in exchange for writing off those debt. But some bonds are owned by US hedge funds who want full repayment. Argentina says no, but there's a court deadline on Wednesday. Deborah Zandstra, a specialist in debt restructuring at Clifford Chance, tells Wake Up to Money the move will have wider repercussions: "Essentially Argentina is being put into a position of defaulting on its bonds. That will trigger cross defaults on its other debts."

     
  19.  
    FRACKING LICENCES 06:09: BBC World News
    Brenda Kelly

    Brenda Kelly from IG Index is reviewing the newspapers on World News. "It is interesting to compare the Guardian's coverage with the Telegraph. The Guardian says there will be drilling but the Telegraph says it won't. There are a huge amount of environmental issues - the amount of water used, the risk of small earthquakes, for example. All energy firms will have to provide an environmental statement if they are going to drill near sites of natural beauty."

     
  20.  
    FRACKING LICENCES 06:03: Radio 5 live
    Barton Moss Results from test drilling for shale gas at Barton Moss, Salford are being analysed

    Energy companies are being invited to bid for licences to extract oil and gas from large areas of Britain, using the controversial process known as fracking. The technique will be all but banned from national parks and other environmentally sensitive areas. Mike Bradshaw, professor of Global Energy at Warwick Business School, tells Radio 5 live people are concerned: "We've got very limited experience of fracking in the UK. So we don't know the answer to many of the questions that people have about what fracking will look like under UK and EU regulations which are very different from those that exist in the United States."

     
  21.  
    06:01: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks, as ever you can get in touch with us by email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and on twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  22.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Monday morning. Here we are. Fracking is under the spotlight as companies start to bid for licences to drill for shale gas. Stay with us for the pick of the business news from the BBC and elsewhere.

     

Features

  • SyedTanks not toys

    Lyse Doucet on the plight of children in Syria and Gaza


  • Boy with head stuck in railingsSmall Data

    Heads stuck in banisters - the official statistics


  • The two sisters in their bakeryBaking hot

    Why two Spanish sisters started a bakery in the desert


  • A farmer walks in front of a construction site of new residential buildings in Hangzhou, ChinaPrice drop

    Sharp falls in China's property market


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.