In what would be a blow to the NRL, there are growing fears in NRL circles that naming rights sponsor Telstra, may decide to cut back on its commitment to rugby league in the country.
With negotiations between the NRL and Telstra ongoing, there are legitimate concerns that Telstra will only want to retain their current media rights, but in the process, stay on as a minor sponsor.
It was back in 2007, when Telstra signed a 5 year deal with the NRL to be naming rights sponsor, worth in the vicinity of $90 million, with the deal set to expire at the end of this year.
Although ARL Chief Executive Shane Mattiske refused to make any comments on the matter, NRL officials are confident that they can get Telstra to stay on as naming rights sponsor, amid all the speculation.
“We’re in the course of negotiating our new media rights, our radio rights and our New Zealand TV rights,” Mattiske said.
“We’re talking to our incumbent partners and other parties in the market. We’re happy to continue talking to Telstra about their renewal of their existing rights.”
Mark Buckman, Telstra’s Chief Marketing Executive, was equally coy on the subject.
“As far as our negotiations with the ARL Commission are concerned, I am afraid that it is not appropriate for me or Telstra to comment at this stage as our commercial negotiations are ongoing.”
It was only last month when the NRL announced their $1 billion TV rights deal, that Telstra issued the following statement.
“We are delighted with the outcome regarding Nine and Foxtel. We remain in discussions with the NRL on digital rights,” Telstra said in a statement at the time.
Should negotiations fail, however, it will be a bad look for the ARLC, who are yet to confirm a replacement for David Gallop, who stood down as NRL CEO earlier this year.