The NRL must take control of the draw. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
The NRL must take control of the draw. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

Monday Buzz: How NRL can take power back from broadcasters

The NRL has to take back control of major decision making and the playing schedule from the TV broadcasters.

If acting chief executive Andrew Abdo wants a one-off Sunday afternoon grand final this year because it's being played on a school night, it should be his and the independent commission's call and not up to Channel 9.

We're not suggesting the broadcasters should be left out of all schedule planning.

We don't want the Warriors playing the Titans in prime time on Friday night. Or the Cowboys playing the Bulldogs.

It should always be the biggest games/blockbusters in the best timeslots.

Channel 9's TV ratings have slumped in recent years. They coincide with the NRL putting out the full-season dates and kick-off times in advance in November the previous year.

We used to have a system in which game times and days would be announced just six weeks in advance. It more often than not ensured we didn't get dud games in prime time.

Planning six months in advance for an entire season can be too difficult. Every year we have teams unexpectedly climbing into the top eight from nowhere the previous year.

The Parramatta Eels, for example, came from the wooden spoon to fifth place just last year.

This a debate the game needs to have.

If you follow a Sydney club and you play the Broncos in Brisbane in round 12, it's more convenient to book your flights, accommodation and maybe a day off work well in advance.

Some fanatics even plan their weddings or christenings around the NRL draw, ensuring their big game doesn't clash with walking down the aisle or wetting the bub's head.

This is all understandable and will need to be taken into consideration.

Yet as we have found out more recently in the COVID-19 shutdown, the TV broadcast money is more important than ever before. We are stuffed without the broadcasters.

They need ratings to get advertising dollars as much as we need their cash.

Will the NRL continue to listen to the fans? Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
Will the NRL continue to listen to the fans? Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

That's not to say Channel 9 picks the grand final kick-off time in years like this one.

The decision should be delayed until we know if fans will be allowed back into venues.

If we're still locked out of stadiums, it can be played at night. If we're allowed back, it should be a day game.

Nine, like Fox Sports, deserves a say but the final decision should go to the NRL.

If in the Peter V'landys era the NRL continues to listen to the fans, it will be a 3pm kick-off.

For those who say it is too hot, the average October temperature in Sydney is 23 degrees.

In a weekend poll on social media, the results were clearly in favour of an afternoon game. "Yes" received 75 per cent of the votes, "no" 11 per cent and "don't care" 14 per cent. The sample was from 2500 Twitter followers.

However, for now the May 28 resumption round is what we're talking about.

If the draw had been done last November, we wouldn't have six unbeaten teams playing against each other in three blockbusters in the best timeslots.

Surely the ratings that weekend will break records because the kick-off times have been strategically planned … and we're so hungry for rugby league.

It shows what can happen when the schedule isn't decided so far in advance.

Originally published as How NRL can take power back from broadcasters