How RA boss’ 15-minute meeting could doom rugby

Rugby Australia's decision to reject a multimillion-dollar Foxtel deal that would have secured its future could spell the death of the sport, according to insiders.

 

Despite a horror year with the Israel Folau crisis, a disastrous World Cup campaign and falling crowd numbers, it is understood CEO Raelene Castle wanted about $100 million more than Foxtel put on the table for the next few years.

 

After days of positive negotiations with Foxtel last month, The Daily Telegraph understands a potential deal completely unravelled in the space of just 15 minutes as Castle explained that RA had decided to reject the offer and would now test the market.

 

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Rugby insiders believe the Foxtel offer was fair in the current circumstances given there were fewer teams and games following RA's decision to axe the Western Force during the current broadcast deal.

 

The $55 million-a-year deal to broadcast rugby union including the Wallabies, NRC and Super Rugby - which has propped up Rugby Australia - expires at the end of next year.

 

While talks continue with Foxtel and rival Optus, media analyst Peter Cox said RA had shot itself in the foot.

 

Cox said as a telco, Optus could afford to throw more money at the sport because it needs subscribers but RA had to decide what was best for them long term and it is not "locking themselves away from the paying public".

 

"Yes, in the short term they might get more money but it could be a danger to the sport because RA has to decide whether it wants the money or the audience Foxtel offers," Mr Cox said.

 

"Rugby Australia is not in the driving seat and that is the whole weakness of its position and the administration has been totally unrealistic."

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle rejected a new deal with Foxtel.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle rejected a new deal with Foxtel.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys has publicly indicated the NRL wants to fast-track negotiations for its new TV broadcast rights and the AFL expected to follow suit.

 

If RA continues to delay its broadcast deal it faces the risk of becoming a minor player in Australian sport.

 

Insiders fear Castle is out of her depth having never negotiated a TV rights deal during her time as a sports administrator in Australia.