NRL in talks for 20-team competition in $400m masterplan
Staff Writers | Fox Sports | 12th March 2023
The ARL Commission is planning to expand the NRL to a 20-team competition in the biggest shake up since the Super League war of the 1990s.
News Corp reports ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis are behind a $400 million plan that would see rugby league become Australia’s No. 1 football code by the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
Expansion side the Dolphins, based in southeast Queensland, have made a red-hot start to the new NRL season with stunning wins over the Roosters and Canberra Raiders.
And the NRL wants to keep growing by adding three more teams to the competition to capitalise on rugby league strongholds.
V’landys confirmed there had been discussions about a 20-team competition at an Annual General Meeting of clubs.
“I am all for looking at a 20-team competition because you have to set yourself goals,” he said.
According to News Corp, three new expansion teams are believed to be worth $20 million in annual funding support for the next 20 years — a $400 million windfall for the NRL.
A Pasifika franchise is the leading contender to win a licence to an 18th NRL team, and would be based full-time in Cairns, hosting several games in Samoa, Tonga and Papua Guinea.
There is also talk of the beloved North Sydney Bears being part of a merger with a Pasifika team to bring the Bears back to top flight rugby league for the first time since 1999.
The Australian government will provide tens of millions of dollars in financial support to help fund a Pasifika team.
Teams in the mix for expansion licences including North Sydney, a Pasifika bid, a second New Zealand team, PNG, Perth and Brisbane’s Firehawks and Jets. V’landys also said “never say never” when asked about a possible Adelaide team.
The 20-team plan would be the biggest shake up to Australia’s rugby league landscape in 30 years.
The ARL expanded from 16 clubs to 20 in 1995, adding the North Queensland Cowboys, South Queensland Crushers, Auckland Warriors and Perth’s Western Reds.
The 20-team format only lasted two seasons before the Super League war, which led to two rival competitions in 1997 before a compromise triggered the birth of the National Rugby League in 1998.
“Yes, I have suggested we go to 20 teams,” Politis told News Corp.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and V’landys are reportedly open to announcing an 18th NRL team in time for the next TV rights deal in 2027, before adding the 19th and 20th teams within the next decade.