Brisbane NRL expansion plan takes major new step
The ARL Commission will meet with Brisbane's prospective NRL clubs next month as the governing body prepares to begin due diligence on a 17th team to rival the Broncos in Queensland.
The move comes as Queensland legends Cooper Cronk and Kevin Walters led the call for expansion, declaring the time has come for a second Brisbane team to enter the big league in 2023.
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The ARL Commission will convene on Friday and while expansion will not be an agenda item, it will be discussed at another meeting next month. The Courier-Mail has learned:
* Up to five Brisbane-based consortia have contacted the ARLC flagging their intention to submit formal bids;
* The ARLC will investigate claims a second Brisbane team could kill off the Titans after Gold Coast culture chief Mal Meninga called for NRL financial aid;
* The ARLC will not slash $13 million in annual funding to the existing 16 clubs, allaying fears a second Brisbane team could erode $208m in league grants; and
* The tender process is likely to start in September in the hope of announcing the NRL's 17th team in the New Year.
Revelations the ARL Commission will formally meet with executives from Brisbane's bid teams is the strongest sign yet the code's governors will head to the negotiating table with broadcasters armed with a 17-team proposal for 2023.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys exclusively told The Courier-Mail in December he wanted to expand the NRL, saying: "Queensland is our market - we need two games every week in Brisbane.
"The NRL is a billion-dollar business and I will be doing everything possible to make Queensland even stronger."
Now V'landys is getting serious.
It is understood several Brisbane bid teams, including the Bombers and Ipswich's western-corridor consortium, will pitch their proposals to V'landys next month.
That will be a precursor to the ARL Commission presiding over a comprehensive study of the Queensland market and whether a second Brisbane team to challenge the Broncos could have dire ramifications for the Titans.
V'landys and Greenberg are committed to the Gold Coast region. The duo will also give high-level assurances that a second Brisbane team will not financially affect Sydney clubs, who went to war with former ARLC chair John Grant over funding during the previous round of broadcasting talks.
If the ARLC backs V'landys' vision for 17 clubs, a second Brisbane team could be operational by 2021 - giving them two years to prepare for their official NRL entry.
Retired Maroons halfback Cronk, who made his name at an expansion outpost in Melbourne, urged the ARLC to give the Queensland people another NRL team.
"I'm a proud Queenslander, no doubt about that, but that in no way has an impact on my decision on whether a second Brisbane team should come in," Cronk said.
"The future of the NRL hinges on another team in Queensland and it has to happen.
"I'm not sure of the number crunching and how it affects the Sydney clubs, but the NRL needs to better at business practice.
"When the next TV rights deal comes up, a second Brisbane team needs to be part of the equation."
Queensland Origin coach Kevin Walters believes a second Brisbane team must be based in the heart of the CBD to compete commercially with the Broncos.
"The Queensland people love their rugby league and is there enough support for a second Brisbane team … of course there is," Walters said.
"It should have happened a few years ago but for whatever reason it didn't happen.
"The second team has to be smack bang in the heart of Brisbane, right in the city. I wouldn't look too far outside the city, we need a fresh start in Brisbane."