While the likes of the Broncos, Cowboys and Rabbitohs are sitting pretty financially, it’s not all good news for the NRL, with a number of clubs under strain.
While the likes of the Broncos, Cowboys and Rabbitohs are sitting pretty financially, it’s not all good news for the NRL, with a number of clubs under strain.

Great divide: Gap between rich and poor growing

Cameron Smith has warned the game to tread carefully as it contemplates a second team in Brisbane.

But the most compelling case for fresh blood may be in documents listed with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission that illustrate the gaping advantage the Broncos continue to enjoy over the competitors.

News Corp Australia has obtained the financial reports of a number of NRL clubs for the 2019 season, among them the Broncos, North Queensland, Melbourne and Cronulla. The Broncos continue to reap the rewards of being the sole rugby league entity in Brisbane, their revenue soaring beyond $50m for the second year in succession despite a season in which they largely disappointed on the field.

The Broncos pulled in more than $15m in sponsorship last year.
The Broncos pulled in more than $15m in sponsorship last year.

The Broncos pulled in more than $15m in sponsorship and invested $9m in administration.

Compare that with the Sharks, who spent a little over $4m on their administration and received just over $5.6m in sponsorship.

Manly's revenue was believed to be in the vicinity of $23m, slightly up on their 2018 figure.

At the same time, it is understood owner Scott Penn was again forced to inject money into the club, having covered a loss of $1.7m in 2018. The club now has accumulated losses on their balance sheet or more than $21m, although it is unclear how much of that money has been made up by the Penn family.

Cronulla lost close to $6m last season, although they finished the year with $16m in the bank after the sale of some property around their ground.

 

NRL's rich and poor clubs
NRL's rich and poor clubs

That figure would suggest they are one of the most affluent clubs in the game, although they face a trying two-year period in which they will be forced to play at Jubilee Stadium, putting the squeeze on their resources and draining their bank balance.

More significant losses will put immense strain on the club at a time when the game is exploring the possibility of adding another team in Brisbane.

No such problem at the Broncos, or in Townsville for that matter. The Cowboys, under the stewardship of departing chair Laurence Lancini, have become one of the richest clubs in the game.

Their revenue last year skyrocketed beyond $35m for the first time in their history as the club recorded a profit of nearly $1m. It is understood that South Sydney's revenue was in the same region as the Cowboys.

The Broncos' profits were more than $3m as they continued to lead the way in off-field earnings, allowing them to pour money into their football department.

The significant advantage they enjoy over their rivals not only suggests that a second Brisbane team should be a serious consideration, it also adds strength to the belief in some quarters that the game should look at unequal funding for clubs.

The Cowboys are on the charge.
The Cowboys are on the charge.

The Sharks and Manly punch above their weight given their lack of resources, and one wonders how much more parity the game could produce should they be given extra funding by the NRL.

The Gold Coast, whose revenue is also well below the Broncos, would no doubt benefit from additional funding as well, given the threat of the AFL in the region.

The Titans have already raised concerns with the NRL over the issue as well as the potential introduction of a second Brisbane team, although it appears the latter is a fait accompli.

But Smith suggested that the ARL Commission shouldn't rush into a decision.

"I don't know if it is the right time," he said.

"The last thing we want to do is have the quality we have in the NRL at the moment, introduce another team, and then the quality drops down."