Rugby Australia broadcast deal: Alan Jones takes an axe to new offering

It was described by Rugby Australia as the “largest and most comprehensive collection of rugby rights ever put to the market in Australia”.

Alan Jones says it “looks like a show bag. And you know what they say about show bags”.

The media heavyweight has continued his relentless criticism of the game’s management in Australia by taking an axe to the broadcast offering unveiled by Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke this week.

In a savage column for The Australian, Jones took apart the new bells and whistles added to the game in an effort to entice a new TV partner piece by piece.

He described pitching a Rugby Championship including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina as “Alice in Wonderland stuff” given South Africa’s desire to play all its matches in its own time zone and the decimation of Argentina after many of its players bolted to Europe.

Jones said the only internationals Rugby Australia could guarantee were against the All Blacks and even those negotiations are being threatened by RA’s ultimatum NZ Rugby takes all five of our Super Rugby teams in a trans-Tasman competition.

He also took potshots at the State of the Union series, rugby’s mooted version of rugby league’s State of Origin.

“A rugby union version will be such a poor cousin in comparison to that of rugby league that it will only embarrass our game.

“Cheap knock-offs are cheap knock-offs. A knock-off Rolex looks shabby.”

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But he saved his biggest criticism for a Champions League-style Super Eight competition that would feature the best two teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, plus one each from South America and Japan, labelling it “the dumbest idea in the showbag” because of the difficulty of pulling it off in these COVID-impacted times.

“The people proposing this rubbish are on another planet,” Jones said.

“It’s as if there was a brainstorming meeting at Rugby Australia, but someone forgot to throw out the bad ideas.

“Much of what has been proposed to broadcasters by Rugby Australia for 2021 can only be described as ‘dodgy’. It would have to be a dumb broadcaster to buy into any of it.”

Despite Jones’ view, Clarke is hoping the new additions will help soften the financial blow to a sport reeling from the end of its last broadcast deal, which was worth $285 million over five years.

Clarke said a number of broadcasters had shown interest in acquiring rugby’s rights.

“We know that sporting broadcast rights have seen some challenging times in both Australia and in other markets around the world,” he said.

“That said, I think rugby has an enormous amount to offer a broadcast partner and not just in the quantity of content we know have available as part of this rights package but the quality at every level from grassroots all the way through to test matches.

“We do know the rugby audience typically is a very defined audience with the ability, spending power to actually get behind the game and I think that has a lot of attractiveness to a range of broadcasters. I’m naturally an optimistic person so I’ll say I’m hopeful we’re going to get to a great result, I’ll let you know in a month’s time.”

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