Open fan forum with David Gallop

Here’s a list of the questions asked by fans in today’s open forum run by the Daily Telegraph, and the answers provided by NRL Chief Executive David Gallop. Questions will be in bold, DG’s answers in normal font just to differentiate between the two.

There has been a significant debate about changing the rules for origin selection in regards to players who play for emerging nations, do you see a change to the qualifications ruling?
Hi Ben, we need to be careful to maintain the importance of international football and encourage players to play for their country. Any change would have the chance of diluting the importance and status of seeing Benji Marshall play for New Zealand. So I don’t believe there will be a change to the current rules.

Can you please explain why no other NRL club has been audited to the same extent as Melbourne. All fans want to know that every club is playing within the rules and on a level playing field.
Brad, every club is audited on the same basis. There’s some confusion around the audit done by Deloitte at the Melbourne Storm. This was done by the owners of the club. We were involved in discussions with those auditors and expected their findings to be largely accurate. However, our own audit process is the same across all 16 clubs with a pre-season post-season and mid-season audit done at all clubs.

Hey David, I was just wondering what your thoughts are about dividing up rep games and regular games for the next TV rights deal to try and maximise the revenue gained through tv?
Hey David, I was just wondering what your thoughts are about dividing up rep games and regular games for the next tv rights deal to try and maximise the revenue gained through TV?

Hi David, can the NRL please announce the entire draw including dates up front? Being a country fan it allows us to plan trips to the games, particularly Friday night matches when we need to take a day of work. As it stand we have 3 weeks tops, my brother and I are eyeing off several Souths games as we are regional members but can’t start planning until the draw is announced, if it is then announced as a Friday night game there is no way we can attend on such short notice.
Andy the current system gives between 5 and 11 weeks notice, under the next broadcasting deal, we would like to see a fixed schedule but we need to consider whether it has an impact on the value of our rights.

David, when are we going to finally have a fair comp where each team plays each other twice? Greatest game of all??? I DON”T THINK SO!
Michael, with the amount of rep football that we currently play, we are very conscious of not increasing the amount of football for our players. A true home and away competition would certainly be attractive but the workload on our players would be enormous.

Membership has been huge for the AFL for several decades. Why did it take the NRL 20 years to catch on and start to invest in this revenue stream?
Miffed, our membership growth has been huge in recent years. Over 25% in 2010. It required a shift in thinking for our clubs and fans. Many people were members of their leagues club and looked at this as a form of membership. These days our fans are recognising the value of membership not only at their own club but through membership buying windows for our big games.

Hello David and congratulations on facilitating a fabulous year of footy. Your thoughts on the following. Salary cap issues, club finances, player off field behaviour or on field performance and NRL promotion could all be improved with a change to the structure of how the salary cap is made up with more emphasis on the role of individual player sponsorships and advertising. Players could have their names on shirts and personalised sponsorship more prominent.
FootyShack, that’s a big question. We plan to increase the allowance for club sponsors to pay players. It will go from 150,000 to 300,000 in 2011. We need to be careful not to give too big of an advantage to those clubs with greater access to sponsorship.

Hi David- Your a brave man you will be coping it today! Just wanted to say you have been doing a great job and in my opinion you handled the Storm issue exceptionally well, congrats.
Hi there, thanks very much. The Melbourne Storm issue was a difficult one, but by the end of the season, the vast majority of people accepted that we dealt with it appropriately and particularly that it would not have been fair for the Storm to compete against the other teams for points with a salary cap over $1m higher than the other teams.

How can the NRL allow finals to be played at Kogarah, forfeiting further revenue, and then state we can’t afford to increase the salary cap?
Mitch, clubs are looking at playing their bigger games at the larger stadiums but home ground advantage is a reward in our finals system and FORCING a move would create an unfairness. Fairness of the comp comes ahead of revenue.

Hi David. With regard to best maximising our TV deal, has the NRL thought about introducing a Challenge Cup along the same lines as the UK currently does. This would be a ratings winner and generate significant financial returns to the game. More significantly, I believe that this would be the best way to reconnect the NRL to grass roots rugby league. Logistically, it may throw up a few curve balls but it is achievable while maintaining our value whilst adding show pieces like origin. I drafted a paper on this and looked at the logistical challenges that this presents and believe that if structured right it can deliver without jeopardising the quality of the game currently. What are your thoughts?
Guest, it’s a great idea, but our calendar is already packed and the players are being asked to play from mid Feb to mid November. We added the indigenous all stars game to the calendar this year which was an enormous success. But it is more football.

Why don’t you have the balls to take control of the TV rights and demand when things are shown. i.e Melbourne is never live, tests aren’t even live. Why can’t you demand these are played live or give the rights to pay TV or show them on another of there channels. And please demand that Phil Gould gets the boot.
Kalvin, we are working hard at preparing for the next round of TV negotiations. The networks recognise the value of our game and the results in ratings. We have seen some improvements in our non-traditional states but we need to be conscious of the ratings for the broadcaster.

We have been seeing a lot of NRL players going overseas or swapping codes, yet there is no punishment for returning players in terms of rep games. I would like to see a system put in place where for every year out of the NRL (unless through retirement), that player has to be back in the NRL for the equivalent time before he can play rep games again. This would be a great way of keeping our stars which is outside the cap. What are your thoughts?
Dave, it is difficult to restrict the movement of players between codes but we do have rewards for players that stay in the game. And we are seeing players returning to our game.

Hi David, 2 questions; after watching the Aus v PNG game i feel it did little for the international game. I am all for the development of the international game but i don’t think playing PNG is the right way about it. do you think that a combined team of all the islands (Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and PNG) would be more beneficial to the ‘4 nations’? With salary cap restrictions and threats of other codes, would you think that the addition of 2 more clubs would help? It would add 9mill to the NRL and would certainly help keep players here Cheers.
Guest, there’s a fierce rivalry between the Pacific nations and the players want to represent their country rather than their region. PNG earned the right to the 4th place in the Four Nations.

David, the AFL’s incursion into Western Sydney seems to have forced RL to get its house in order in this heartland area. Can you give us your perspective on the success or otherwise of the NRL/ARL’s programs in Sydney’s West?
The Link, we have been successful in Sydney’s west for a long time. It’s a success that’s based on not one but many clubs and teams. Importantly, there’s generations of people who support the game in Sydney’s west. The programs we have in place now are certainly coming into the focus because of all the attention that has been placed in the area. Our crowds membership and junior participation are all increasing in the west of Sydney.

I realise the financial importance of playing games at ANZ stadium but seeing 8,000 fans rattle around in a 90,000 stadium is disappointing and directly affects the potential atmosphere which lifts the whole game – players and fans. Can we see more games at Leichhardt, SFS and SCG?
Guest, increasingly we are seeing clubs looking for a balance. Probably the best example is West Tigers. We all enjoy the tribalism of the suburban grounds like Leichhardt and get frustrated when the large stadiums are poorly attended. But the stadium deals are important for our clubs’ financial future.

David – can we trial a membership bonus scheme – so that if a club reaches say the 15,000 mark – the fans then get some money back OR credit off their next membership? That way the fans encourage other fans to become members
David, it’s a good idea in theory but we rewarded the clubs by giving them money through the race to 10,000 this year. We need to be conscious of the financial importance of membership to our clubs’ bottom lines. Membership does have increasing benefits like exclusive buying windows.

Why cant there be Salary cap exemptions for players that are developed from juniors? Guest, if all our clubs had equal numbers of juniors in their district, it would be far easier to implement a salary cap concession for developing your own. One of the reasons we have a salary cap is to distribute talent across the teams and provide those clubs with less juniors in their area with the ability to compete with the others. We will increase the concession for long standing players from 100,000 to 200,000 dollars for next season.

If you’d like to distribute talent, why not consider a draft/trade system allowing the bottom Clubs to get access to the best kids?
Terry, we have a clear philosophy in our game that there’s a real value in seeing local kids turned in to local heroes. It’s part of what sets our game a part. An 18 year old who grows up wanting to represent Parramatta, newcastle or any other team has a chance to do that without being drafted across the country. As such we are not in favour of a draft – the other issue is that we dont have 16 clubs with the same geographic area and the same access to players.

As an old North Sydney fan I’m very interested in any expansion plans the NRL has. What plans, if any do you have in place to increase the number of teams?
Sam, we will look at expansion seriously in the middle of next year when I expect we will have a clearer picture of our media rights position. Any new team must have a viable business model but also we will be interested in how that team helps the game grow strategically. Making sure our current clubs and players are sharing the game’s growth, is critical to this decision.

Do you think we need to use the AFL finals system. The competition is so close that there is not enough advantage for teams finishing in the top 4. What is stopping the NRL from using this system?
creaming eagle, we believe our current finals system is the best one for our game particularly when you consider the impact of the mid-season rep program. We believe that teams one and two should play teams 7 and 8 in week 1, this is the fairest match up allowing teams 1 and 2 the best chance to advance and ensuring that teams 7 and 8 face a tough game for them to advance.

Can you comment on the idea that whilst the salary cap is good for keeping the competition level and for keeping clubs financially viable, it does nothing to allow clubs to keep a team together over a period of time. Clubs build a team, become succesful and then have to disband huge parts of it as they cant afford the salaries under the cap. Surely you should provide a means for clubs to keep teams together that they have built.
Steve, the system allows poorer performing teams to build up their roster and become contenders again. It’s difficult to have it both ways.

Is it still likely that the NRL Commission will be up and running by 1 November?
Guest, there are a number of parties working on the issues. It’s complicated but it’s pleasing to see that documents have been drafted. Clearly not everything will be in place by Nov 1, but significant progress has been made and the changes will be worthwhile for all levels of the game.

Hi David, has a general warning been put out to clubs regarding another breach of the salary cap. Is there a standard punishment now or considering you have taken this stance with Melbourne, will you deal with other clubs more harshly. Cheers
BM, the message could not be any clearer. Where we have large scale breaches which are deliberately concealed from us then the penalties need to be substantial. A line was drawn in the sand with the Bulldogs in 2002, and all clubs know that.

Have you apologised to Brett Stewart yet for your reactionary suspension of him on the basis of hearsay evidence that has since been disproved in court?
Kneejerk, the court decision in relation to Brett Stewart did not address the issues that we dealt with him over.

David, I think you generally do a good job in a trying environment, but reading your replies today, not once have you acknowledged an error or that the NRL could do better. This is typical of the NRL generally and really creates an environment where it appears that you don’t listen to fans or seem to be planning for the future. Your comment on this?
Andrew, we can always do better but the results this year show the game is improving year on year.

Does the NRL send a good message to up and coming Islander players that if you play this game and then run off and play AFL then the ARL will victimise you and act like spoilt children? One just has to look how your code has been treating Israel Folau over the past couple weeks, especially by banning him from being the waterboy for Tonga?
AFL warrior, the fact is Israel can’t be an AFL and an NRL player at the same time. He made a choice, and I wish him well.

Mr Gallop, where do you see the state of the game in 10 years time?
AaronL, the game is well and truly back and in a sound position. Our competition allows our players to show their talent every week in a comp where any team can beat another. There are difficult issues to deal with and they are often not as black and white as some suggest. We work hard to get those decisions right and it’s great to see our fans taking such an interest in the game. Can I thank everyone for blogging with me today.

Hi ben, we need to be careful to maintain the importance of international football and encourage players to play for their country. Any change would have the chance of diluting the importance and status of seeing Benji Marshall play for New Zealand. So I don’t believe there will be a change to the current rules.

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