It may only be a matter of time before it is all done, dusted and confirmed, but negotiations to take a Manly Sea Eagles home game against the Canberra Raiders to China, are still ongoing.
With officials from both clubs to meet with the NRL and broadcast partners Fox Sports, the plan is to discuss the potential viability of taking a game to the world’s largest country by population.
David Perry, Manly’s Chief Executive, said that the club is willing to remain patient on this matter, as they look to form a long-term association to take NRL games to China.
“We wouldn’t be doing this unless we thought there was some and consistent frequency of having a game up there,” said Perry.
“I think the plan would be to lock ourselves into a set term, and the NRL is certainly supportive of a game over there regularly in the future.
“If you’re going to go down this path, you have to focus on a five-year plan at least in the short-term, to see if there’s an opportunity to lock it away as a frequent event ongoing.
“You’d want to play three games in the next five years as a minimum, to get a real feel as to whether there’s any opportunity in the future.”
With Fox Sports having agreed to the idea of the game in principle, they are currently looking at the numbers and other key components, to determine if the game is commercially and financially viable from their standpoint.
If the approval that Manly seeks is granted, the NRL will then send a letter to the Chinese High Commission, outlining the support required to progress with the game.
The game, should it go ahead, would be scheduled before the regular season itself, as to give both teams the chance to recover from the long flight and game itself – possibly a 2-week resting period in between games.
With both Canberra (Huawei) and Manly (Kaspersky) with Chinese sponsors, it is the key markets and demographics that the two teams can appeal to, that have them as the two teams being discussed to take a game to China.
“You’d think we have to have Canberra and Manly playing over there for the first two years at least, to get some leverage for the sponsors and those that are helping us make it happen,” said Perry.
“The NRL thinks the timing is good from their perspective, because of the major sponsors from both clubs.
“We believe we can leverage the game stronger, and get more traction because of it.”
It would not be the first time a football game has been taken to China, after the Melbourne Demons played an exhibition game against Brisbane Lions – but for the idea to work, Perry says that the NRL has to take a regular season game there.
“They [the Demons] were really happy with that, and you really can’t measure it until you get a bit of frequency about it,” Perry said.
“The initial one-off was a good one, but it was an exhibition game.
“We may as well take the proper event there, to showcase the quality of the product we have and tap into an emerging market for the game.
“All key stakeholders are very motivated to make it happen in the best interests of the game, and we’re in the early stages of due diligence in seeing whether it’s feasible for next season, or whether we work towards 2014.”