Phil Clarke looks at how the latest talks in the NRL could mean a radical change for rugby league.
Last Updated: 21/03/12 8:45am
It's not just the clock in Australia that seems to be ahead of things over here. Tactics in the game, rule changes and fashions in rugby league all seem to be set Down Under.
In fact, I can't think of the last time that something happened in the Northern Hemisphere before it did down there.
Let's take the number of changes that a coach can make with his four substitutes. They reduced it to 10 four years before we did over here. It always seems to me that we're playing catch up.
Well if that's the case then rugby league needs to keep an eye on what's coming next in the NRL, and the latest 'talk' is very interesting indeed.
The negotiations for the next TV deal to cover rugby league have brought up what might mean a radical change for the game. In an aim of increasing the revenue to the sport, the broadcasters have suggested that the game needs to find more opportunities for commercial breaks. They need to be able to sell more 'advertisement' slots if they are to increase their offer.
The NRL has reportedly been working for months to analyse the opportunities that would allow more commercials during the game.
Part of this comes from Aussie Rules coverage, a sport which lends itself to more ad breaks and rugby league wants to see if it can do the same.
There is talk about each half lasting 50 minutes with a drinks break after 25, so that you effectively have four quarters. There would also be short commercials at 20m re-starts and goal line drop outs.
Protecting our game
The people tasked with analysing all of this believe that it's possible to protect the integrity of the game and also increase the revenue through more commercials. When you watch a game of rugby league, and look at the number of seconds that it takes for the ball to get back into play after it has found touch with a kick, for example, you start to realise that there are opportunities out there.
The stats from the NRL show an average of eight kicks a game finding touch and it takes an average of 35-37 seconds for the ball to come out of the scrum and play to resume.
According to an article written last week by the former coach Roy Masters, the NRL are considering making each goal line drop out a compulsory 30 seconds (most defending teams usually try to make it last longer!) A typical NRL game has three drop outs per match. If you do the maths you start to realise that the game could benefit financially if this idea takes off.
So what does all of this mean?
Well a game might last a bit longer. Is that a good or bad thing? Are you getting entertained for longer? The most popular team game in the world, football, has a 90 minute match, would adding a further 10 minutes to a game of rugby league make much difference?
The sport might receive more money. Some would go to the players and some to the benefit of the game. In Australia they keep losing their players to Aussie Rules, up here we lose them to rugby union. Would it be a way of keeping more stars in the 13-man code?
Whatever happens, I don't think that we'll have much of a say in it. The NRL and games' administrators in Australia don't really worry too much about anyone else. They'll make their decisions, change the rules and wait to see if we join in.
It is worth pointing out that laws governing Australian TV are quite different to those over here. It is less likely that there would ever be adverts during play in the UK. Even in Australia there are seperate rules for free to air TV (e.g. Channel 9) as there are for subscription TV (e.g. Foxtel )
History shows that we have to follow them in one way or another.