In a landmark piece of cross-code promotion, the NRL has announced that next year’s rugby league premiership will be sponsored by the AFL. Under the five-year $10 million per season deal, NRL clubs will now compete for the Play AFL NRL premiership.
“This sponsorship is a win-win for Australian sport,” said NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith. “There is no organisation with greater respect and nationwide brand recognition than the AFL. To have the AFL willing to partner with rugby league in this country is not only a great thrill, it is an honour for our sport.”
The surprise sponsorship announcement followed unsuccessful negotiations between the NRL and a series of corporate bookmakers, including Tom Waterhouse.
“Hopefully this deal with the AFL shows once and for all that rugby league does not need money from bookmakers to survive,” said Smith. “Thanks to the AFL’s assistance, the financial security of every NRL club is now assured for the next five years.”
AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said that his organisation was surprised but excited that its multi-million dollar sponsorship offer had been accepted by the NRL.
From the AFL’s perspective, the benefits of the deal include:
- The AFL will have a more prominent and credible presence in the Queensland and New South Wales markets.
- The AFL will no longer need to fund under-performing clubs in Western Sydney and on the Gold Coast. These clubs will instead be allowed to merge with under-performing rugby league clubs such as the Penrith Panthers and Gold Coast Titans.
- TV rights holder Channel 9 will now be able to promote both AFL and NRL simultaneously on Friday nights in Queensland and New South Wales.
- It is pretty funny.
Will the NRL do anything for money? Who would you like to see sponsoring rugby league next season?