The Rugby Battle In Australia
This report investigates the epic battle between the
Australian Rugby League which has been around for 87 years
and the Super League concept for the control of Rugby
League in Australia. One man, Mr Rupert Murdoch, is trying
to take over and run a rebel Super League to enhance his
power and for financial gain. This Super League is proposed
to run in 1996 with a 10 team competition as its
prospectus. This report reviews the history of the
Australian Rugby League, the battle between Mr.Murdoch and
Mr.Packer, the battle of who controls pay television, the
players future and junior development. This conflict is
mainly based on power, greed and money. The two
protagonist's are prepared to go to any lengths to achieve
supremacy. I have researched archives, newspapers,
pamphlets and watched television to accumulate information
of this divisive conflict.
2. The History of the A.R.L.
The Australian Rugby League originated in 1908 which was
then known as the N.S.W. Rugby League.The game of Rugby
League was born long ago and faraway, on the 29th of August
1895 in the stately George Hotel Huddersfield Yorkshire,
England. Originally 15 a side teams were reduced to 13 in
1906 and Rugby League's trademark the play the ball was
introduced. The changes large and small laid the
foundations for the fast moving thrilling game that Rugby
League has become. On the evening of August 8 the N.S.W
Rugby League was formed with a secret meeting at Sydney's
Batemans Hotel. The men driving the new game were: The
entrepreneur James Joseph Giltinan, the great cricketer
Victor Trumper, the influential politician Henry Clammond
Hoyle. The supreme master stroke being the signing of Rugby
Unions champion Herbert Henry Dally Messenger at a fee of
180 pounds. In the summer of 1907-08 more meetings
resulting in the formation of 9 clubs: Glebe, Newtown,
South Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, Western Suburbs, Balmain,
North Sydney, Newcastle which only lasted until 1909, and
Cumberland. However Cumberland had trouble enticing
sufficient players and was forced to amalgamate with
Western Suburbs the following season. Rugby League's first
season began on Easter Monday 1908 on a wave of unrivalled
enthusiasm. To South Sydney went the honour of being Rugby
Leagues first champions 14-12 victors over Eastern Suburbs
in the premiership final. Over the years more teams have
been introduced to make an expanded competition, to
strengthen and promote the game locally, nationally and at
this present time internationally. The teams that have
joined since the inaugural competition include:
1910 Annandale which folded in 1920.
1920 University which folded in 1937.
1921 St George.
1947 Manly and Parramatta.
1967 Cronulla and Penrith.
1982 Canberra and Illawarra.
1983 Newtown were expelled due to financial problems.
1988 Brisbane, Gold Coast and Newcastle.
During the 1994 Rugby League season the N.S.W. Rugby League
passed a motion to expand the 16 team competition to a 20
team competition incorporating a team from Western
Australia, 2 more teams from Queensland and a team from New
Zealand. It was also agreed to change the name from the
N.S.W Rugby League to the Australian Rugby League also
known as the A.R.L as a true reflection of what it
represents. The 1995 season promised to be the pinnacle of
the league's endeavours with the expanded 20 teams which
included 4 new teams namely:
Auckland Warriors from New Zealand.
North Queensland Cowboy's based in Townsville.
South Queensland Crushers located in Brisbane.
Western Reds from the far west Perth.
Rugby League as a truly Australian story is abound with
wonderful characters such as - Messenger, Horder, Stehr,
Churchill, Gasnier, Raper, Reddy, Fulton, Lewis, Sterling.
The Immortals are recognised as Rugby League's finest
post-war exponents, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, John
Raper and Bob Fulton had a creative excellence that comes
along all to rarely.
3. The Conflict Between The A.R.L and Super League.
1995 provided the League with so much optimism, to realise
their vision of a 20 team competition and watch it come to
fruition. On the 1st April 1995 the unsuspecting Australian
Rugby League was out manoeuvred in a coup when the Super
League announced its intention to form a rebel super
league. This super league was a breakaway league with its
own constitution and vision statement. The Super League had
enlisted high profile rugby league players to endorse and
persuade current players to sign with the rebel league
without the knowledge of the A.R.L The rebel league backed
by Mr Rupert Murdoch and the News Ltd. Corporation made
huge financial offers as an inducement for players to sign
to play in their competition. The A.R.L then counter
attacked signing up loyal A.R.L players with the financial
backing of Mr Kerry Packer and Optus Vision. This conflict
was no longer just about Rugby League, the intervention of
these two omnipotent individuals brought a new dimension,
the struggle for power and total dominance for the pay
television broadcasting rights.
4. Mr Rupert Murdoch verus Mr Kerry Packer.
4.1 Murdoch, Rupert (1931- )
Australian-born media magnate, who boosted the circulation
of many of his newspapers by creating a tabloid mix of sex,
crime, and sports stories topped with giant sensationalised
headlines. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, and
educated at Oxford University. He became a United States
citizen in 1985.
Murdoch returned to Australia in 1954 and took charge of
the Adelaide News (sold in 1987 and closed in 1992), a
marginally profitable afternoon daily paper. Applying his
Daily Express experience, he created the giant
sensationalised headlines that were to become his
trademark, and the paper's readership soared.
Murdoch started building his media empire with the purchase
of a Perth Sunday newspaper in 1956, and in 1960 he entered
the Sydney market by acquiring the Sydney Daily and Sunday
Mirror. His hard-sell promotions and lurid stories boosted
the circulation's of both papers. In 1964 Murdoch founded
Australia's first national newspaper, the Australian, which
featured national and international news, investigative
reporting, and local issues. By 1968 his Australian empire
of newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting stations was
worth an estimated $50 million.
Murdoch then bought control of the Sunday News of the
World, a sensationalist London paper aimed at the working
classes, and the foundering London daily Sun, a stodgy
liberal paper. Circulation soared, and he went on to
purchase other British newspapers and broadcasting
interests. In 1981 he acquired the renowned London Times
and Sunday Times. His holdings expanded to include Fox
Broadcasting, for which he assumed the chairman and chief
executive roles in 1992, and TV Guide (acquired in 1988).
By 1989 Murdoch's empire included newspapers, television
stations, a movie studio, publishing houses, magazines, and
large shares in news services. But by 1991 his
Australia-based News Corp. had also accumulated immense
debts, which resulted in his selling most of his American
4.2 Packer Kerry (1937- )
The family controlled media group known as Australian
Consolidated Press Ltd. He controls of the media empire
that includes A.C.P and Channel 9 and has interests in
newspapers, sub and provincial, Sydney and Melbourne
television radio stations in Victoria and Western
Australia, land development, Leisure Resorts and television
and film productions. In 1977 Mr Kerry Packer offered top
cricketers lucrative contracts to play in teams for his
World Series Cricket.
5. The Vision of the Super League.
5.1 Selected clubs were presented on 6th February 1995 with
a 36 page proposal and slide presentation of Super League's
vision of the game, not only in Australia but throughout
the world. The proposal addressed all the problems
currently experienced in the game by players and clubs and
provided an exciting plan to guarantee that the super
league competition would be the best rugby league
competition in the world. The Super League would be played
in the initial years in the strong holds of Australia,
England and New Zealand culminating with a World Series
that will be played in various venues and televised
throughout the world.
5.2 Ten teams comprised of the: Auckland, Broncos,
Bulldogs, Canberra, Newcastle Mariners, Penrith Panthers,
Perth Reds, Sharks, Townsville and another team yet to be
announced, the tip is a Sydney North Shore consortium.
Melbourne and Adelaide will increase the number of teams to
12 within 2 years. The harsh reality is that clubs cannot
compete, especially in the current chaotic climate, without
a substantial revenue base. Under Super League clubs are
guaranteed that they will receive at least $4.5 Million
annually, the clubs also have enormous opportunities to
receive major sponsorship involvement with companies whose
products extend throughout the world. Clubs not joining the
super league would miss out on the opportunity to
participate in the best competition in the world and the
financial security that goes with that opportunity. Super
league suggest that only the clubs that join will be
assured of there survival and there participation as a
strong competitive team.
5.3 Super League assure that 3 out of the 5 games played
each week will be free to air whilst the other 2 will be
available on pay television. Spectators and supporters will
be well taken care of with more football games to watch at
the game or on pay television locally, nationally and
internationally. Super League also promise to have better
facilities and venues for spectators to enjoy.
5.4 The players themselves although thrown into turmoil
have emerged with larger player payments and enormous
sign-on fees as the A.R.L and Super League contest for
their signatures. The tactics applied by both camps were
nothing short of tenacious, each reporting who they had
signed as a propaganda exercise.
5.5 The development of the game of junior league level is
the big winner under Super League. Under the agreement
clubs will be required to spend $500000 per year on junior
development. The Super League is also in the course of
preparing a major junior league development program under
which it will develop the game through out the game this
will be separately funded by Super League.
Some of the actual Super League concepts have not been made
public as yet, the A.R.L. using innuendo as a means of
6. The Outcome.
In 1995 it was decided by the High Court that super league
would be able to start its competition in March of 96, But
later a win by the A.R.L made it unlikely that Super League
would be able to start untill the year 2000. This win was
to be short lived as the High Court dismissed the A.R.L and
made it possible for Super League to start its competition
7. Conclusion and Recommendations.
In conclusion this epic battle is far from over as both
camps vie for the monopolistic control of Rugby League both
as a sport and a valuable marketable commodity. Mr Packer
and Mr Murdoch are both used to winning and getting what
they want. The A.R.L. believe Rugby League can not be owned
by anyone, it is the peoples game whereas Super League
believe they have the right to exploit Rugby League for the
good of the game as there reason. The A.R.L. spent 87 years
building this great Australian sporting icon which
encompasses cameraderie and mateship, national pride,
humour and courage, bravery and skill, spectacular feats of
athleticism and great drama. The traditions have been
established the legacy should remain.
Can Rugby League be bought or sold out ? In my opinion the
values of life are not for sale at any price. Rugby League
has evolved over the years, nurtured into the dynamic game
as it is today. What right does anyone have to take-over
and exploit rugby league for their own financial benefit.
Some of the Super League concepts have merit but I believe
the A.R.L. should run Rugby League "The Greatest Game of
The Newcastle Herald.
The Sunday Telegraph.
Books and Magazines:-
The Kangaroos Ian Heads.
The Rebels of Rugby Bob Power.
Action '85 Gary Lester.
Concise Australian Encyclopaedia Angus and Robertson
Green and Gold Heroes Rugby League Week Publisher.
Rugby League Week Magazines.
This report investigates the epic battle between the
Australian Rugby League and the Super League concept for
the control of Rugby League in Australia. This report
reviews the history of the Australian Rugby League, the
battle between Mr.Murdoch and Mr.Packer, the battle of who
controls pay television, the players future and junior
development. This conflict is mainly based on power, greed
The main aspects included in this report are the topics
surrounding the controversial Super League. I explore the
history of the A.R.L. as opposed to the rebel league's
vision, the confrontation of the A.R.L. and Super League
and some background information on the two protagonists Mr
Rupert Murdoch and Mr Kerry Packer.
In conclusion the traditions and loyalties established by
the A.R.L. into the game as we know it today are on the
brink of being destroyed because of another mans vision for
power and money.
Table of Contents.
2.The History of the A.R.L.
3.The Conflict between the A.R.L. and Super League.
4.Mr Rupert Murdoch verus Mr Kerry Packer.
4.1 Murdoch Rupert.
4.2 Packer Kerry.
5.The Vision of the Super League.
5.1 The Clubs.
5.2 The Teams.
5.3 Pay Television Rights.
5.4 The Players.
5.5 Junior Development.
7.Conclusion and Recommendations.