Gould unloads at NRL’s expansion plans
RUGBY league veteran Phil Gould has taken NRL bosses to task over reports an existing club could be shifted into Brisbane.
Cronulla, Manly and the Gold Coast are reportedly at risk of being axed from the NRL as broadcaster the Nine Network pushes for a new Brisbane rugby league team.
The reports of the attempted relocation strategy didn't sit well with Gould who ripped into the league bosses over their lack of forward planning when compared to that of the AFL.
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"The first thing I'll say is that every time this subject comes up, people comment on about 10-seconds thought about what could be possible," Gould said on Channel 9's 100% Footy.
"There is no one that has actually done research or gone into any market viability or looked at the financial structures of individual clubs or what it costs to run an NRL franchise.
"I said to (former NRL CEO) David Gallop 15 years ago 'What's the game look like in 15 years?'. You just get a blank expression. I've said it to (Gallop's successor) David Smith, I've said it to (former ARL Commission Chairman) John Grant, I've said it to (current NRL CEO) Todd Greenberg. I don't think they've done any work on this whatsoever.
"When GWS were coming into Sydney the AFL had done two decades of research on the demographic of Sydney on the financial viability of this organisation, on what the game and what Sydney was going to look like in that time.
"And I can remember them going to ANZ Stadium, looking at the future of ANZ Stadium and the bookings and those sorts of things. The ANZ Stadium boss said to me they knew more about rugby league than rugby league knew about itself.
"It had done more research on rugby league and these demographics than rugby league had ever done … they've had a cradle-to-the-grave type of mentality with this, they've had a really long-term strategy.
"With us, we (the NRL) put (expansion clubs) somewhere where they don't go any good and we say 'Oh well that was a mistake'.
"I just don't know if the NRL over the last 10 or 15 years has done enough work to plan where it should go, or what it's going to look like when it gets there … not just for the short term but for the long term as well."
Gould acknowledged that while relocation may not be the key, he did detail a radical plan for the league.
"I think we're still a long, long way away from making this decision," Gould said. "But personally I've always believed the future of the game was a two conference system. That there needs to be nine teams in Sydney and nine teams outside of Sydney.
"Play it as a regional competition in two-conferences and then perhaps you've got your Sydney grand final, your regional grand final and you meet for a super grand final at the end of the year.
"If you're going to relocate, I don't think the new area will accept a team that has been relocated. I don't believe in relocation. I think you've got to start a new franchise that is their own. And if you do that then you've got to have more teams in the competition.
"Given the history in our game I don't think it can afford to lose a current club. I think it's the traditional club brands in Sydney that makes the regional clubs more viable."
The former Penrith Panthers general manager wasn't done there as he went back in on the league over their handling of clubs and not setting them up for future success.
"The fact is that the majority of our clubs trade in a position of insolvency anyway," he said. "Most of them lose money, many of them are supported by either private owners or by poker-machine income from licensed clubs, who's days are numbered.
"Having been in clubland I know how much it costs to run a club. Not just for one or two years, it's got to be ongoing. There is no financial incentive.
"Not enough work has been done by the rugby league to help these new and expanding franchises. They've done nothing to help the Gold Coast. It's a basket case and it shouldn't be … they're burning their money because they haven't got it right from the start.
"They need to get it right from this day and they're not going to get it right, you can see what they've done already.
"They're going to keep burning money there until people say 'nothing works on the Gold Coast' … something's got to work. The Gold Coast can work. They've just put the wrong people there the whole time."