The NRL has always struggled to attract viewers in Australia and has been one of the most unpopular sporting codes in the country.
In 2017, the league faced criticism over the way it conducted business, particularly in relation to player welfare, which led to the resignation of chairman Todd Greenberg.
But, despite the difficulties, the NRL’s financial results for the year 2017 were impressive, according to data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
The NRL’s net income for the first nine months of the year was $2.9 million, up 17 per cent on the same period last year.
The $2 million jump was due to increased revenues, which the NRL has attributed to increased television and broadcast rights deals and a new TV deal with Fox Sports.
That’s despite the fact the NRL spent less than half of its revenue on player welfare in 2017.
The big winner was the NRLPA, which saw its net income increase by 10 per cent in the nine months to March 31, while net profit increased by 8 per cent to $4.2 million.
“The NRL has achieved record profits in 2017, and we continue to look forward to delivering a solid and successful 2018,” NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.
“We are excited about the next phase of the NRL.
It is a time for significant change in the game and we are confident the new structure will support our teams and fans in achieving our long-term goals.”
While the NRL is in its first full year of operation, the club has already spent more than $1.5 billion in capital investments over the last five years, with new stadiums being built in Melbourne and Sydney.
The majority of that money has been earmarked for new stadiums, including the $1 billion Brisbane Stade, which will be completed in 2021 and the $500 million Parramatta Stadium, which opened in 2015.
“This will be the largest stadium expansion project in Australian sport, and it will be a significant investment for our fans and players,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told the ABC.
“These facilities will be used to deliver a world-class rugby league experience to fans across the country and also to create a strong commercial base for our club and our players.”
In an interview with the ABC last year, Greenberg also said that the NRL was on track to generate around $50 million in revenue from commercial rights deals this financial year, although he declined to name any specific deals.
“What we are focused on is to make sure that we do the best we can in the future,” Greenberg said at the time.
“So, if you look at the commercial deal we signed with Fox last year [in 2019], that is a deal that I believe we can do the same again with.”