AFL misses the board as NRL wins TV rights reboot for 2020
Peter V'landys says he's a dart board for Victoria.
But his bold plan to relaunch the NRL season - complete with a brand new TV rights deal - hit the bullseye last week and left the once all-conquering rival AFL for dead.
The AFL will reboot its own season at the MCG next Thursday night, but remains miles away from a resolution with its biggest financial contributors, broadcast giants Channel 7 and Foxtel, over a revised TV deal.
Uncertainty reigns in the AFL world, and almost everything hinges on that TV money.
Cuts to football department spending, playing lists and player wages hang in the balance.
Get your footy fix on KAYO ahead of live matches returning soon. Watch classic battles from the 60s to today, docos, news and more. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Revelations that both networks are seeking discounted deals, not just for this season but also 2021 and 2022, will send shockwaves through the AFL.
While Mr V'landys, rugby league's can-do commission chairman, understood the new reality and renegotiated his code's TV rights accordingly, the AFL has dug in its heels.
The feeling among some observers is the AFL has wasted an opportunity during the shutdown to streamline its business and adopt a less confrontational attitude.
One insider said Mr V'landys had displayed a level of "pragmatism, entrepreneurialism and lateral thinking" not matched by his AFL counterparts.
"The AFL are keen to get back, but they have been typically transactional and I don't think have the same pragmatism about the profitability of media companies," the insider said.
Mr V'landys has been willing to trade and find business solutions to get his players back on the field. He set an ambitious May 28 return-to-play date and is now pushing to get fans back in the grandstands.
By comparison, some in TV land say the AFL has lacked the same excitement and vision, and taken fans for granted, just as it did in its heavy-handed crackdown on social behaviour last year.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan has negotiated his way through similar issues in the past, but will need to give ground if he wants a TV deal before the Magpies and Tigers run out next week.
News Corp is a parent of Foxtel and the publisher of this masthead
Originally published as AFL misses the board as NRL wins TV rights reboot for 2020