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Warrington Wolves' majority shareholder asks NRL clubs about creating rugby league 'World Series'
WOLVES’ majority shareholder Simon Moran has personally written to NRL clubs to promote the idea of an expanded World Club Challenge format between teams from Australia and England.
NRL premiers Melbourne Storm take on 2012 Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos at Headingley tonight, kick off 8pm, in what will be the 13th consecutive year the WCC has been held on English soil, but Moran and representatives from other Super League clubs have asked their Australian counterparts about the possibility of turning the one match competition into a six-team rugby league World Series.
Moran contacted NRL clubs Canterbury, South Sydney, Manly, Brisbane, Melbourne, Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra and Newcastle in regards to expanding the current set-up into a three-game weekend, where the first, second and third-placed teams in each division would face off against each other for a new World Series trophy.
The expanded format would bring financial benefit to the competitors - potentially Wolves being one of them having finished in the top three of Super League for the last three seasons - but chief executive Andy Gatcliffe said Moran had the wider interests of the game at heart.
“It’s not just about Warrington,” he said.
“Individual clubs wanting to do things just for themselves is not what this is about, we need to do what is right for the overall body.
“What we have done as a group of Super League chief executives and chairmen is talk about the future of the World Club Challenge and how we can improve it.
“This is one of the items that we have been discussing over a period of time and have now decided to do something to move it forward.
“What Simon has done is taken the initiative to e-mail the clubs over in Australia and propose the changes to make it a bigger competition and get more recognition in promoting rugby league both here and in Australia as well.”
With the NRL set to generate $2billion in the next five years through lucrative TV rights deals and other commercial revenues, it seems unlikely that Australian teams will be desperate for an expanded WCC format as a purely financial venture.
Indeed, reports from Australia suggest the idea has received ‘lukewarm’ feedback from NRL clubs who are worried about the burnout of players.
But English executives are keen to use the popularity of the Australian league to provide a boost to the sport in this country, a sport that is currently coming to terms with its own financial shortcomings.
Gatcliffe suggests that a new and improved format may well persuade the Australian teams to start hosting the competition again, or even that the new competition may well help both the NRL and Super League to tap into the potentially lucrative Middle Eastern market.
“If it is something they are interested in, then we can then look at where we hold this competition, one year here, one year there or in Dubai or wherever,” he said.
“But what we have at the moment, as good as it is, we want to make it bigger and better and this is a way of doing it.
“A longer term goal is to build the Super League brand in Australia and elsewhere, but first and foremost we want to grow and improve what we have over here.
“We want to grow the attendances at all Super League grounds and increase the coverage of our game and this is one way of doing that.”