Chief executive Todd Greenberg has confirmed the NRL is looking at 16, 17 or 18 as the magic number of teams as part of a review into the game’s footprint and competition structure ahead of the next broadcast rights agreement.
The NRL has been working for eight months on determining the optimum number of teams in the Telstra Premiership and where they should be located before deciding whether the competition should be expanded and whether to relocate clubs.
A second Brisbane team is strongly favoured but Greenberg insisted no Sydney club would be removed from the competition to make way for a new side.
“We have got zero appetite to kick any teams out of our competition,” Greenberg said.
“We are looking at the footprint at the moment, what that work will tell us will come down to us at the end of the year but there is no appetite to take any club out of our 16 teams at the moment.”
Greenberg said the NRL was considering the possibility of introducing a 17th team or 18th team, with Brisbane and Perth likely to be home for new clubs.
Previously the game has made decisions about expansion after receiving submissions from consortiums in new areas but the NRL will first determine the number of teams and where they should be located.
“Seventeen teams is an option, 18 teams is an option, everything is on the table,” Greenberg said.
“The commission are expecting a report from me by the end of the year and we are heavily into that work, we have been working on that for about eight months now.
“It is a very deep level analysis of a number of factors across multiple markets across the country.”
Channel Nine has long advocated the introduction of a second Brisbane team as it would ensure more content for Queensland viewers, while many believe there should be a game at Suncorp Stadium each weekend.
The South Queensland Crushers joined the premiership in 1995 along with the Auckland Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys and Western Reds, but only survived three seasons before becoming a casualty of the Super League war.
However, the Broncos average about 30,000 fans per match at Suncorp Stadium and are the only NRL club to consistently post an annual profit.
Greenberg said he could envisage a second Brisbane team joining the premiership during the next broadcast cycle but insisted it would not be at the expense of one of the nine Sydney clubs.
“I do think it is realistic and we have been very open about the concept of whether we expand or whether we change the footprint of the competition,” he said.
“It is not just about Queensland either, there is a real appetite for other teams, whether it is in New Zealand or Perth or other parts of the country.
“Clearly there is a very strong appetite for rugby league in Queensland and we would be crazy not to look at it but it is not a simple solution just to say we are going to kick a team out. That is certainly not in the planning, it is not in the discussions and it is not something on my agenda at all.”