NRL preparing to get back into the black as TV broadcast talks ramp up


Talks had also been held with ‘disruptors’ such as Netflix and Google, but they too were pursuing revenue-share arrangements. Those options were ultimately dismissed because the NRL would have also been required to wear the $50 million production costs that Nine and Fox currently absorb.

The clubs were told that free-to-air negotiations would commence this year and that there was a chance of three bidders providing competitive tension. However, Seven’s involvement could be contingent on whether it could extricate itself from its current agreement to broadcast the cricket.

The NRL managed to run its competition at a fraction of the cost in 2020.Credit:Getty

The NRL’s deal with Fox, which provides 66 per cent of broadcast revenue, doesn’t lapse until 2027. The agreement with Nine, publishers of this masthead, ends in 2022.

The clubs were told the NRL would balance the potential extra revenue it could generate through subscription services with the need to reach as many viewers as possible on free-to-air channels in concluding the next deal.

V’landys and Abdo also told the clubs that a decision on expansion was expected to be delivered by June or July. A business case would need to be made for a 17th team to be introduced and the incumbent franchises were assured they would not be adversely affected if that were to occur.

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The NRL’s financial result was achieved despite revenue reducing by more than $130 million, or 25 per cent, last year. V’landys, who was re-elected chairman of the ARLC, said the result was better than anticipated.

“We increased net payments for clubs by 300 per cent to ensure they all stayed viable and have funds for the future,” he said.

“This is in stark contrast to other sports which either reduced funding to their clubs or maintained the same level of funding in their clubs’ time of need given the disastrous impact of COVID-19 on their other sources of revenue.

“The game faced financial catastrophe when we were forced to suspend the season in March. I’m pleased to report that because we were able to resume the season so quickly and re-negotiate new deals with our partners, the game finished the financial year in much stronger shape than first predicted.

“We’ve recorded a modest deficit and had State of Origin been played in the 2020 financial year we would have been close to breaking even.

“What I’m most pleased about is that these results were achieved while ensuring the financial security of all stakeholders. The Commission made it a priority to make sure all clubs were provided with additional funding to ensure they survived the pandemic.”

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Olympics: Brisbane the frontrunner to land 2032 Games as talks with IOC start



IOC President Thomas Bach welcomes participants to the virtual International Olympic Committee Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland, February 24, 2021. Greg Martin/IOC/Handout via REUTERS

February 24, 2021

By Ian Ransom

BERLIN/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Brisbane took a major step towards being named 2032 Olympic hosts after the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that the Australian city had been picked as the preferred partner to start talks for the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC had approved a recommendation of the commission in charge of future hosts.

“This commission recommended to the IOC executive board to enter into a targeted dialogue with Brisbane 2032. The Executive Board has unanimously approved this recommendation,” Bach told a virtual news conference.

Several cities and countries had publicly expressed an interest in the 2032 Games including Brisbane, Indonesia, Budapest, China, Doha and Germany’s Ruhr valley among others.

Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates, also a vice president of the IOC, said the other candidate cities had been “parked for a future Games” by the IOC.

“It was a very mature decision by the IOC,” Coates told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

“To take a decision when you’ve still got a few other cities there and say we’re going into targeted dialogue with one preferred city was a big call by them and that’s where they ended up.

“It’s a significant recognition of the way we’ve worked together, the three levels of government, the Paralympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee in presenting this bid together.”

Brisbane earned bonus points for its high percentage of existing venues, a good masterplan, experience in organising major events and its favourable weather among other things.

The state of Queensland hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The IOC has overhauled its bidding rules in 2019 to reduce costs and make the process easier for cities. There are no official candidate cities campaigning ahead of the vote as has been the case in the past.

Instead the IOC puts the preferred host to the vote at its session following another review by the commission.

Kristin Kloster Aasen, who heads the Future Host Commission, said it was not yet clear when the IOC vote would be held, as it all depended on the targeted dialogue with Brisbane which would start right away.

“They are a very advanced project, a number of criteria that sit very well with us. It has been moulded for a number of years, good legacy plans, good venue plan,” she said.

“There are many, many things that made us put this forward,” she added.

Coates said Australia hoped to conclude its work on the bid by early May and the vote could come in Tokyo, where the IOC have a meeting before the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics in the Japanese capital.

Australia hosted the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin; editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)



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Delicate talks continue as crunch time looms for hubs


By the completion of this weekend’s round five, they will have both played the full allotment of other non-Victorian teams, meaning that unless the border situation was to change, either WA or Victorian clubs would need to relocate to interstate hubs in order to avoid fixture double-ups.

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Players – all of whom are semi-professional and many of whom hold other jobs – were surveyed by the AFL Players’ Association as to whether they would be prepared to head interstate for several weeks to finish the season. The AFLPA was unwilling to reveal specifics of the survey’s results but multiple women’s football sources have indicated that a majority of players – but not all – would be willing to enter hubs rather than risk further diluting the integrity of a competition in which clubs already don’t play all others during a season.

The question however remains as to which clubs will need to relocate. North Melbourne and St Kilda were floated by industry insiders on Tuesday as frontrunners to move but the league is adamant no decisions have yet been reached. Meetings between key stakeholders continued on Tuesday.

While overwhelmingly keen to complete the season, sources suggest some players have shown a reluctance to relocate, understandable given many have significant commitments outside football. The needs of club staffers are also being taken into account.

Greater Western Sydney already spent a lengthy stretch during January away from Sydney because of the coronavirus situation in NSW at the time while Adelaide were whisked into Sydney ahead of round two after players initially needed to isolate having spent time in WA when that state had a positive case in late January.

The Giants were whisked straight to the airport after their match against Fremantle.Credit:Getty

Gold Coast, meanwhile, are spending the week in WA in between matches against both Fremantle and West Coast.

The AFL provided financial assistance for Giants players who spent an extended time on the road and a similar scheme would be likely for any Victorian clubs who need to relocate.

The AFL is steadfast in its determination to ensure the season is completed with a premiership awarded unlike 2020 in which the competition was called off in late March with four sides left standing and no team crowned as premiers.

Meanwhile, Carlton announced on Tuesday that they would challenge the one-match ban handed to reigning league best and fairest winner Madison Prespakis for rough conduct. Prespakis was on Monday offered the suspension for a dangerous tackle on Richmond’s Sarah Hosking which was graded as careless, medium impact and high contact.

But the Blues will contest the ban at the tribunal on Wednesday night in a bid to free the gun midfielder for this weekend’s meeting with North Melbourne in Launceston and ensure she remains eligible for a second straight AFLW best and fairest gong. That game in Tasmania forms part of the inaugural AFLW Indigenous round, which was launched on Tuesday. The AFL announced that Aboriginal Elder Aunty Joy Murphy would be honoured throughout the round.

“The inaugural AFLW Indigenous Round will draw on stories of empowerment, strength, resilience, and determination and will showcase the journey of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander women on and off the football field,” AFL women’s chief Nicole Livingstone said.

“Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander women have played a significant role in the development of our sport for many years, so we’re delighted that we’re able to recognise their contribution to our game in the first dedicated round this weekend.

“The 2021 AFLW Indigenous Round provides AFLW players and fans from Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous heritage with the opportunity to embrace Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander culture and I’m looking forward to seeing this round flourish for many years to come.“

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Facebook restarts talks over Australia media law – POLITICO



Facebook has returned to negotiations with the Australian government over a controversial media law, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday.

The social media giant had blocked all news articles from appearing in Australia in response to an upcoming law that would require Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content being shared on their platforms.

“I’m pleased Facebook has decided, it would seem, to tentatively friend us again and get those discussions going again … to ensure that the protections we want to put in place to ensure we have a free and democratic society that is supported by an open news media can continue,” Morrison was quoted telling media on Saturday.

While Google struck license agreements with publishers including Murdoch-owned News Corp, Facebook has not.

The block on its platform led to a 13 percent drop in traffic to those sites, according to Reuters.

The company was slammed for also blocking links to government and health department websites just as the country launches a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign this week.

“This is a really hard thing to do,” Simon Milner, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for the Asia Pacific region told the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday. “We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation.”

Facebook and Google said Australia’s proposals threaten the principals of an open internet.

Still, the Australian government is moving forward with the proposal, which could be made law once approved by the Senate. The proposal has already been approved by the country’s lower house.

“The Australian government’s position is very clear, people would know the strong support being provided internationally for Australia’s position,” Morrison said, citing similar rules in the EU, and Canada’s own plans for a media law.



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Biden ready to resume nuclear deal talks with Iran: State Department


Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s administration was prepared to talk to Iran about both countries returning to a 2015 deal that aims to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

The Trump administration quit the pact in 2018.

In August last year former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had triggered a 30-day process at the Security Council that led to the return of UN sanctions on Iran and stopped a conventional arms embargo on Tehran from expiring on October 18.

The Trump administration argued it had triggered the return of sanctions – known as “snapback” – because a UN resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear pact still named the United States as a participant

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Allison Janney Talks Filming Mom Without Anna Faris – E! Online


Currently, Faris hosts the Unqualified podcast. As for Mom, the show also stars Mimi Kennedy, Jaime Pressly, Beth Hall, William Fichtner and Kristen Johnston. Not to mention, the show is currently up for three awards at the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards, including Best Comedy Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (for Fichtner) and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (for Pressly).

On Mom‘s three nominations, Janney said to DeGeneres, “The network shows tend to get pushed aside because there’s so many great shows on all the other, you know. So, to get a nom in our eighth season and for Bill Fichtner and Jaime Pressly to get recognized, they’re so wonderful and I’m really proud.”

Catch Janney’s full interview below.



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Modi talks of Sri Lankan Tamils ahead of TN polls


The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu may be only a couple of months away but Mr Modi refused to be drawn into any election-related issues

Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the indigenously built Arjun Main Battle Tank Mk-1A to the Indian Army here Sunday and launched a slew of projects and laid the foundation stone for many others. This was a prime ministerial visit on which he made no mention of the Opposition or any other political subjects.

Arriving by helicopter on the Navy helipad near Marina Beach, the PM drove to the Nehru Indoor Stadium where he first took the salute from an “Arjun” tank before proceeding to the meeting venue, where he spoke in English. Describing various projects he was waving the green flag to as symbols of innovation, he quoted freely from great Tamil poets Avvaiyar and Subramania Bharathi to touch a chord in the mostly Tamil audience.

 

Touching upon an issue sensitive in Tamil Nadu, the PM assured people that not a single fisherman was in Sri Lankan custody at the moment and that while 313 boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy had been got back, efforts were on to get back several others. He dwelt at length on what India had done for Sri Lankan Tamils in the Jaffna Peninsula, where 15,000 houses had been built for displaced Tamils as well as a hospital and an ambulance service.

Espousing the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s cause further, he said: “Special importance has been given in Budget to develop the coastal area. Extra credit mechanism has been given in the Budget for fishermen, stressing on seaweed farming to improve the conditions of the fishermen’s community,” he said, and announced that a “Seaweed Park” will come up in Chennai soon.

 

The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu may be only a couple of months away but Mr Modi refused to be drawn into any election-related issues. Before departing the venue for Kochi in Kerala, Mr Modi linked hands with both chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam, and the trio raised their hands in a gesture loaded with a message. Just over a week ago, BJP president J.P. Nadda had cleared the decks for the alliance in Tamil Nadu between the AIADMK and the BJP and other allies.

While Mr Modi kept politics and elections totally out of the event where he flagged off various projects and schemes, he was closeted with Mr Palaniswami for at least five minutes after the function was over. It is believed he got the message from the CM that the AIADMK-BJP front along with other allies was intact, and that the DMDK and PMK were willing partners.

 

BJP sources say the remainder of the month will be quite busy in Tamil Nadu as the Mr Modi is expected to come to Chennai again to inaugurate more schemes ahead of the summer polls, and Mr Nadda and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman are also expected to be in the state on frequent visits. If the alliance is sewed up by then, seat-sharing talks could figure in the meetings with Mr Nadda.

Both the PMK and DMDK, thought to be parties that are ready with alternatives or even prepared to go it alone in the polls if the AIADMK is not more forthcoming about continuing ties, were well represented in the PM’s function, where Mr Modi was seen waving to them in particular from the dais at the Nehru Indoor Stadium on Sunday.

 

In view of past troubles with a cold reception for Mr Modi in the city, the police were extra cautious and refused to allow all those wearing black masks entry to the event.

Flagging off the 9.01-km northern stretch of Chennai Metro Rail Phase I to Wimco Nagar costing Rs 3,770 crores, the PM said that the project had been completed on schedule despite the Covid-19 pandemic and by Indian engineers, using only Indian rolling stock. “In this year’s Budget, Rs 63,000 crores has been set aside for Phase II of the project. This is the largest amount earmarked for a project in any city in one go. This will help the people of Chennai,” he added.

 

Among the other major projects that he flagged off were the Discovery Campus of IIT Madras in Thaiyur at a cost of around Rs 1,000 crores in the first phase, with a built-up area of 200,000 sq. m. and modernisation of the Grand Anicut Canal System that plays a major role in the irrigation of the rice bowl in the Delta districts of Tamil Nadu. Other projects included electrification of the Villupuram-Thanjavur-Thiruvarur railway line and the Chennai Beach-Athipattu fourth line to connect Chennai and Kamaraj ports and facilitate freight movement.

The PM also paid tribute to the martyrs who had laid down their lives on February 14, 2019 when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a CPRF convoy moving from Jammu to Srinagar, near Pulwama. “No Indian can forget this day,” Mr Modi said.

 

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Sharks secret talks with Melbourne super coach Craig Bellamy


A Daily Telegraph report has revealed that the Sharks management have been in secret talks to snare the super coach when his deal with the Storm ends at the end of the season.

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The 61-year-old coaching legend has long been linked to a move to the Brisbane Broncos as he wants to be closer to his grandchildren on the Gold Coast.

But Bellamy revealed in the report that a Sydney side had emerged as a surprise contender for his signature.

“There’s a Sydney club, but I can’t name them. They’ve done a really good job to keep it secret,” he said.

“I’ve been talking to them for as long as the Broncos offer has been there. It’s a serious option.”

Asked specifically about Cronulla: “Well, it’s a really nice place. Honestly I can’t say anything. I’ve had a bit on my plate but I’ll make a decision soon.”

But Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta has revealed that the Sharks have indeed made a play and that the talks have been going on in secret for the past six months, with the proposed length of the deal said to be four years as the coaching director of the club.

“We can confirm meetings have been ongoing between the Sharks, Craig Bellamy and his advisers, in relation to a potential Coaching Director role at our Club from 2022 onwards,” Mezzatesta said in a social media release.

“Until there is more to report, the Sharks will be making no further comment.”

Bellamy is one of the hottest commodities in the NRL after revealing he would walk away from the Storm head coaching role at the end of the 2021 season.

It creates a three-way battle for Bellamy, with the Broncos floating a 10-year deal to get him to the club while the Storm are confident that Bellamy will stay with the Storm.

The Sharks currently have a reported $5 million in salary cap space at the end of next season, while current coach John Morris has yet to be re-signed.

It points to a relatively blank canvas for someone like Bellamy to make a huge mark on the club.

With another title in 2020 and the Storm perennial title contenders, it’s no wonder everyone wants a piece of Bellamy.

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Biden Talks Infrastructure


President Biden met with key lawmakers and administration officials Thursday to discuss his goals for infrastructure and green energy.

In comments ahead of the meeting, Biden said infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. “I’ve been around long enough … that infrastructure wasn’t a Republican or a Democratic issue,” he said. “There are not many Republican or Democratic roads and bridges,” he added.

The White House said meeting participants – which included a bipartisan group of senators from the Environment and Public Works Committee, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris – agreed “that America needs to build new infrastructure across urban and rural areas and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process to support the country’s economic recovery in the months and years ahead.”

China in the lead: Biden said he had spoken to President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, and noted that China has invested heavily in rail, including trains that travel 225 miles per hour. “We don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch,” Biden said.

No price tag yet: Biden campaigned on a $2 trillion plan of infrastructure and green energy investment, but Thursday’s talks were preliminary and did not include specific dollar figures. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting was part of an “ongoing discussion” on an issue that was important to the president. “But I don’t have a number for you, we’re not at that stage in the process yet,” Psaki told reporters.

Familiar hurdles ahead: Infrastructure investment has long been a popular topic for lawmakers, but few discussions have gotten past the basic question of how to pay for it. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said after the meeting that funding would be an issue. “I raised the issue that would be good if we could do some of this during the Covid relief package to get us started, recognizing that it’s going to be a challenge to make sure that we have adequate revenues to fund transportation moving forward,” he told Politico.

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