The Big Deal Weekly: AFL cash splash puts spotlight on needy, NRL strike threat, Scorchers save WA cricket, Tom Brady's message in a bottle, Kyrie Irving's trade request & more
Newsletter No. 21, 6 February 2023
Welcome to The Big Deal.
There’s plenty going on as we hit the equinox of Australian sport - the last throes of the cricket season and the first hint of Sherrin’s finally being kicked in anger.
Amid all that, we have confirmation of the inequality in the AFL via the latest funding distribution data.
And it shows how Western Australia has survived a dearth of international cricket through the COVID years, thanks to the extraordinary feats of the Perth Scorchers.
There’s also a bun fight over pay bubbling away in the NRL and some bloke prepared to mortgage the farm for a bottle of sand where Tom Brady once stood!
Keep up to date with our weekly podcasts by subscribing on Apple Podcasts and Spotify - there are some big name interviews on the way so get ready!
Now, here’s what’s been happening in sports business at home and around the world.
IN THIS WEEK’S WRAP OF THE BIG DEALS
AFL funding ladder shows not all clubs are equal
NRL risks strike action over pay deal
Scorchers bash WA Cricket out of danger zone
A very Brady bottle
Final insult for Australian Open ratings
Ford back in Formula One
Irving wants out of Brooklyn
US awaits Superbowl LVII
Blues bleed cash in record January spend
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AFL FUNDING LADDER SHOWS NOT ALL CLUBS ARE EQUAL
Gold Coast and GWS continue to receive more than double the funding of many of their peers.
The Suns and Giants can look forward to a $25 million cheque from head office.
But they are not the only clubs being propped up by the AFL.
Curiously, high-flying Brisbane sits third on the ladder of handouts with North Melbourne and St Kilda the leading Victorian clubs.
Each can expect between $18-19 million coming their way this year.
2021 grand finalists Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs are next in the queue, along with Port Adelaide and Sydney.
The top nine teams on the list all receive at least $3.5 million more than the bottom nine.
The financially secure Richmond, Hawthorn, Collingwood and West Coast will all receive the minimum distribution this year of between $10.5-$11 million.
Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane told The Age that “equalisation” helped teams like the Demons and the Bulldogs into grand finals.
“Equalisation works. Without equalisation, I would be so bold as to suggest that Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and GWS wouldn’t have been in grand finals (in recent years),” he said.
It hasn’t helped St Kilda reach one since 2010.
The Saints have been the most heavily funded Victorian club over the last decade, due largely to a very poor stadium deal at Marvel Stadium which ran them into debt and forced the AFL bail-outs.
The AFL continues to negotiate the 2023 salary cap with its players’ association.
The 2022 cap was $13.54 million which won’t cover what the bottom half of clubs will receive this year as a distribution.
2023 AFL FUNDING LADDER
= 1st Gold Coast ($25 million)
= 1st GWS ($25 million)
= 3rd Brisbane ($18-19 million)
= 3rd North Melbourne ($18-19 million)
= 3rd St Kilda ($18-19 million)
=6th Melbourne ($16 million)
=6th Western Bulldogs ($16 million)
=6th Port Adelaide ($16 million)
=6th Sydney Swans ($16 million)
=10th Adelaide ($11.5-12.5 million)
=10th Carlton ($11.5-12.5 million)
=10th Fremantle ($11.5-12.5 million)
=10th Geelong ($11.5-12.5 million)
=10th Essendon ($11-11.5 million)
=15th Richmond ($10.5-11 million)
=15th Hawthorn ($10.5-11 million)
=15th Collingwood ($10.5-11 million)
=15th West Coast ($10.5-11 million)
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NRL RISKS STRIKE ACTION OVER PAY DEAL
The NRL has a much bigger drama in the salary cap space with players threatening strike action less than a week out from the start of the pre-season competition.
While the very best players in the competition earn in excess of $1m per season, there is a big disparity in wages down the ranks with more than half of the players in the league earning less than $175,000.
Penrith’s Nathan Cleary is reported to be on a five-year deal that will earn him $1.3 million per season.
But the Rugby League Players Association is fighting for the NRL’s lesser lights and it has numbers on its side.
Canberra star Joe Tapine confirmed unprecedented strike action could not be ruled out.
“We don’t want to get to that stage but everything is on the table at the moment,” he said.
Last year’s salary cap was $9.118 million for the 30 highest-paid players.
SCORCHERS BASH WA CRICKET OUT OF DANGER ZONE
The Perth Scorchers are single-handedly keeping cricket alive in Western Australia.
A record-extending fifth Big Bash title was won against the Brisbane Heat before a rollicking crowd of 53,886.
The stars of this side are far from Australian cricket royalty.
Part-time national white-ball all-rounder Ashton Turner leads the side, there is vanquished Test opener Cameron Bancroft, reserve keeper Josh Inglis is its gloveman and rarely seen Andrew Tye and Jason Behrendorff are among its pace battery.
It includes South African born, English middle-order batsman Stephen Eskinazi at the top of the order and is rounded out by journeymen and precocious local talent who have barely earned their stripes in grade cricket.
And yet fiercely parochial Perth has taken to these all sorts like the Australian team was embraced in the heady days of the World Series Cup.
That’s because it has no choice.
Perth Stadium has seen only one Test match, this summer against the West Indies, one T20 International and not one one-day international since COVID hit nearly three years ago.
Even the Scorchers themselves have been a rare fixture, playing only one home game in the 2021-22 season.
The WACA was on its knees after recording a $1.8 million loss.
But moving the Scorchers’ games to Perth Stadium this season has been genius with more than 280,000 people attending matches at an average of more than 31,000 apiece.
While Cricket Australia keeps the lion’s share of gate takings from the finals, the WACA is still optimistic of a $500,000 injection.
It’s already pocketed $400,000 from Scorchers merchandise which has sold out twice and had to be re-ordered.
The final was a winner around the country as well with 502,000 watching on Seven and another 338,000 tuning into Fox’s coverage.
After a couple of listless BBL seasons, a streamlined fixture and the return of some top end big-name talent might have done enough to steer the format back on the road to riches.
A VERY BRADY BOTTLE
We all know people pay huge money for land by the sea.
It turns out you can also pay huge money for land that was by the sea … and is now jammed into a bottle.
You’ll have probably heard by now Tom Brady, the greatest American footballer of all time has retired - again.
What you may not know is that some smarty pants has bottled the sand from the exact place where he announced his second retirement and is selling it.
What is even crazier is that with a tick over five days to run, it has already drawn a bid of US$12,000!
It’s also spawned a host of copycat sellers trying to similarly cash in and while they are not yet pulling the kind of bids as the original, it seems there is still good money to be made by bottling some of that Brady magic.
FINAL INSULT FOR AUSTRALIAN OPEN RATINGS
The numbers are in confirming the men’s and women’s finals at the Australian Open completed a miserable fortnight of ratings for the tournament.
You’ll remember the 2022 event was buoyed by huge ratings figures and a drop off was expected but a 40 per cent reverse almost certainly exceeded Nine’s expectations.
Novak Djokovic’s 10th title at Melbourne Park was watched by 1.3 million viewers, down from the 1.6 million who watched Nadal win the 2022 title.
Aryna Sabalenka’s victory attracted 1.43 million sets of eyes - about a third of the 4.26 million who tuned in to see Ash Barty go out on top.
No Roger Federer or Serena Williams also saw ESPN in the US report disappointing ratings - a 36 per cent drop for the men’s final and 21 per cent for the women’s.
FORD BACK IN FORMULA ONE
Ford is returning to Formula One for the first time since 2004, after announcing a partnership with the world champion Red Bull team.
The American car manufacturer will provide the power units for both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri until at least 2030 after entering a “long term strategic technical partnership for the development of the next-gen hybrid power unit to be used from the 2026 Formula 1 season onwards”.
Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali celebrated the news saying Ford’s return was “great for the sport”.
IRVING WANTS OUT OF BROOKLYN
Never far from a headline, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has written another one putting in a trade request ahead of Thursday’s NBA deadline.
ESPN is reporting that Irving will end up at the Dallas Mavericks alongside All-NBA star Luka Doncic, in exchange for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2027 and 2029. The Nets will also send Markieff Morris to Texas.
The Mavs look to have beaten the LA Lakers for Irving’s services. A LeBron James tweet had fuelled speculation of a reunion after the pair formed a partnership that helped drive the Cavs to the 2016 title.
The tweet, which did not contain one letter, saw more than 28 million views in little more than a day.
US AWAITS SUPERBOWL LVII
The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Superbowl LVII next Monday.
It will be played at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals and will be the last one under the current media rights deal before a new arrangement kicks in which will attract an 80 per cent bump in the value of the rights.
Advertisers can expect to pay US$7 million (A$10.11 million) for a 30-second hit during the game on Fox - that’s A$337,000 a second!
It also amounts to 10 times what the cost was in 1990 and nearly 100 times the cost in 1970.
Superbowl parties will be held around the US with an estimated US$16.35 billion to be spent on the game’s own mini-economy - that’s more than US$85 for every person in the country.
The half-time show will star Rihanna who won’t make a cent from her appearance - the NFL doesn’t pay performers at the Superbowl!
BLUES BLEED CASH IN RECORD JANUARY SPEND
Chelsea continues to flounder in the English Premier League despite the biggest January spend in the competition’s history.
The Blues have taken just five points from their last five league games and celebrated their £323.3 million new year outlay with a goalless draw at home to newly-promoted Fulham, who remain above them in the table.
Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea’s £106.8 million defensive midfielder from Argentina, made his debut in that game.
While £88 million Mykhailo Mudryk only lasted a half after being withdrawn with a cold.
The Blues’ spending spree has drawn the attention of FIFA and UEFA who are considering implementing a new rule preventing clubs from sidestepping Financial Fair Play rules by spreading the cost of a player over the terms of a lengthy contract.
Bottom-placed Southampton were the second-biggest spenders in the January transfer window, splashing £60.9 million in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation.
Ghanaian 20-year-old winger Kamaldeen Sulemana was their biggest and boldest purchase, a £22 million buy from French club Rennes.
He came on in the second half at Brentford but the Saints began February with a 3-0 reverse and remain rooted to the foot of the table.
Manager Nathan Jones had to listen to some “you don’t know what you’re doing” from frustrated travelling fans.
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