NRL expands competition to 17 teams, extends deal with Fox Sports

The NRL Telstra Premiership will expand to 17 teams from the 2023 season after the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) approved the grant of a new licence.

The commission approved both the expansion of the competition and Gold Coast-based The Dolphins as the successful bid for the additional licence.

The expanded 17-team competition will see the NRL Telstra Premiership become a 26-round competition with every team continuing to play 24 games, with the total number of regular season games increasing from 192 to 204.

As part of the announcement, broadcast partner Fox Sports, owned by Foxtel (which is jointly owned by News Corp Australia and Telstra), has agreed to an enhanced broadcast agreement from 2023 to 2027. Nine Entertainment Co’s broadcast rights for the competition expire before the beginning of the new expanded competition at the end of 2022. No details of which network will take on the rights after that have been confirmed.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys said expanding the game in Queensland was vital to the long-term growth of the sport.

“Rugby League is part of Queensland’s DNA and to have four teams based in Queensland will further strengthen our game as the No.1 sport in the state,’’ he said.

“The key to long term success is growth. By growing the NRL Telstra Premiership we create more fans, encourage more participants and increase commercial investment in rugby league.”

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the expanded competition would create more opportunities for the rugby league ecosystem.

“This is an exciting day for our game. There will be more opportunities for our players in 2023, more games of rugby league to watch for our fans and more investment in pathways for our grassroots participants,’’ he said.

“It’s also an excellent outcome for our partners and sponsors who have additional exposure from 2023.”

To encourage growth in participation and pathways across southeast Queensland, The Dolphins have agreed to invest $1 million per annum on grassroots rugby league and pathways as well as an additional $1 million per annum on women’s rugby league pathways and development. The club will be required to submit an annual budget for Commission approval which sets out how the $2 million in funding will be spent each year.

Telstra and the NRL celebrated 20 years of partnership in 2021. The telco and the competition signed a five year naming and mobile digital rights agreement in 2017. This will extend its NRL sponsorship and digital rights to 2022.


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