NRL matches will have statistics supplied by an AFL-owned firm. Photo: Andy Zakeli
A company part-owned by the AFL is poised to take over as the statistics provider for the NRL website in a move that will result in rugby league lining the pockets of its greatest rival.
Fairfax Media can reveal that Champion Data, the official statistician for football, has all but signed off on a lucrative deal with Telstra, which has the management rights for nrl.com.
The two-year agreement is expected to be ratified soon. Telstra informed incumbent provider Sports Data its contract would not be renewed after it expires on December 31.
The AFL has a 49 per cent stake in Champion Holdings, whose parent company, Champion Data, will hold the new contract. Champion director Chris Hume owns the remaining shares. He declined to comment on potential conflicts of interest or whether the AFL would have access to the NRL's intellectual property.
On its website, Champion Data advertises its AFL prospectus, which is billed as the ''essential number-cruncher'' for the 2014 season.
Telstra, the naming rights sponsor for the NRL, also provides the website platform for the 16 NRL clubs.
''Telstra's primary goal is to give our customers a great service when using our NRL products,'' a Telstra spokesperson said. ''I can't comment further while we are in commercial negotiations.''
The contract between Sports Data - also known as NRL Stats - and the NRL is also set to expire. ''We're in discussions with a number of stats providers, including the incumbent,'' an NRL spokesperson said. But it is understood that contract will be renewed.
So while Sports Data can still lay claim to the title of the game's official statistician - and is also relied on by NRL clubs and coaches - the content provided via Telstra for nrl.com and the 16 NRL clubs will be from a company part-owned by the AFL.
That content will be accessed via mobile phones and digital devices, with industry experts predicting its value could eventually equal or surpass the value of the television deal. The NRL signed a five-year, $1.2 billion broadcast deal with Nine Network, Fox Sports and Telstra last year.
Sports Data boss Andrew Moufarrige questioned the NRL's decision not to keep all its content in-house and raised concerns about whether Champion Data would give the AFL access to its NRL member database.
''There are plenty of questions being asked about how an AFL-owned company can be doing stats for nrl.com and for 16 club sites and apps,'' he said. ''No sport in the world hands all control … of their digital assets, which are a major future revenue source, effectively to a rival code like the AFL via Telstra.
''It will also be a farce for Fantasy League players.
''An AFL-owned company will now have access to all NYC [National Youth Competition] and NRL player data, which will make it even easier to identify and target future superstars for them to poach.''