Orcas in shock plan to join Super League
By STEVE KILGALLON - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 8 April 2007
It's the most audacious bid for a sporting franchise in history. The Sunday Star-Times has revealed a Wellington rugby league team are to apply for a place in the English-based Super League competition.
The backers of the Southern Orcas - who two years ago failed in a bid to join the NRL - have been engaged in secret negotiations for more than a year with senior officials of the English Rugby Football League to join their elite 12-team league, if as expected, it expands to 14 sides in 2009.
The Star-Times has a copy of a "positioning document" sent by the Orcas to the English, which lists All Blacks Daniel Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Jerry Collins and Piri Weepu and Kiwi league internationals Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall as key targets for the franchise should they be accepted.
The positioning document admits it is "an idea from left-field. An idea that's just crazy enough to make the fans go wild. This could be the next step in creating a series to foot it with union's Super 14."
Never before has a single club side in any sport played its regular-season fixtures in an entirely different hemisphere.
The Super League has 10 sides from northern England, one in London, and one in southern France. If they were successful, the Orcas would turn the Super League into the first genuinely world-wide club competition in sport, and fly 24 hours straight to play their away games.
The Orcas' frontman, the New Zealand Rugby League acting chairman Andrew Chalmers, says the bid is serious, and he believes it stands a strong chance of being successful because it would create a huge increase in TV and sponsorship revenues for Super League.
The Orcas have an agreement to base themselves and play eight home matches at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, and would take others to the South Island and around Australia. They are also prepared to bring league to Asia and the Middle East for the first time, with a key target being Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
Chalmers says he expects to file a formal business plan within months. He says the NZRL are merely facilitating the application, and the team would be privately-owned, with the majority backer being the same Belgian-based, English-born billionaire investor who was lined up to support their NRL bid.
The backer wants to retain his anonymity, but is genuine in his intentions, says Chalmers. The NRL bid was expected to cost around $10 million in start-up capital, and while Chalmers said the Super League franchise would need launch funds of between $15m and $20m, he said raising that sum would not be an issue for the billionaire. "If you start thinking in pounds, it is not a lot of pounds in the scheme of things," he said.
Chalmers said English officials were "open-minded" on the prospect and he is convinced that he can sell the Orcas as a money-generating prospect, opening new markets worldwide and boosting TV income for Super League in the southern hemisphere.
"It's fair to say they are looking to make sure the cost of bringing in a new side is exceeded in terms of tangible dollars generated," he said. "This type of expansion would increase the value of sponsorship and TV rights and actually grow the market."
Chalmers said the move would benefit the Warriors. "Can you imagine: the most popular game of the year would probably be the pre-season game," he said.
"The Warriors vs the Orcas: how big would that be?"
He admitted many people would laugh at the idea, but Chalmers said research had been done and there was no element of fantasy to the proposal.
"It is a commercial decision for all the parties - a commercial decision for Super League, a commercial decision for the people backing the Orcas. This has to come down to a very strong business case to be able to withstand a robust due diligence process."
The Orcas' own pitch concludes: "It's an audacious move. Any way you look at it, this is a move ahead for the game."
surely a joke... what do you guys think??