Rugby league’s billion-dollar broadcast deal

Rugby league more than lived up to its tag as the sport that keeps giving yesterday.

It was a day dominated by news of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) putting pen to paper on a television rights deal worth just over a $1billion.

The Nine Network and Foxtel will broadcast the NRL for the next five years.

It’s regarded as the most important development in rugby league since the start of the Super League war in the mid-1990s.

News of the TV rights agreement was kept under wraps until yesterday morning, shortly after ARLC chairman John Grant signed off on the new deal with Nine Network boss David Gyngell and Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany.

The agreement will increase the salary cap for clubs and see more cash directed to the grass roots level of the game.

Grant has hailed the news ‘‘the greatest deal ever done’’ by the sport.

‘‘Today we answer the $1billion question with the $1billion-plus answer,’’ Grant said.

Gyngell said league was part of Nine’s ‘‘DNA’’ and despite the cash-strapped network and Foxtel having to fork out $90million up front between them, it was a race they had to win, beating off competition from Seven and Ten.

‘‘We have certainly stepped up and paid as much money as we could,’’ Gyngell said.

As part of the deal, Nine demanded the grand final would kick off at 7.15pm and State of Origin would remain in its current Wednesday night spot.

‘‘The players and clubs are all going to get a good drink out of this, there is nothing surer than that,’’ Gyngell said.

Fox will continue with five live games over the round, including Monday night football.

The ARLC was successful in demanding a fixed schedule for the first 20 rounds of the season, something clubs were very keen to address.

News of the deal was greeted warmly by Rugby League Players Association CEO David Garnsey, who said the players would benefit.

‘‘It’s what the players were looking for and it should give us a greater share of the game’s revenue.’’

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