"We wouldn't be doing this unless we thought there was some momentum and consistent frequency of having an event up there" ... Manly chief executive David Perry. Photo: Simon Alekna
MANLY'S plan to spread the NRL gospel in China is no gimmick as they continue negotiations to kick-start next season there against Canberra.
Sea Eagles and Raiders officials met the NRL and broadcast partner Fox Sports last week to discuss the viability of moving a Manly home game to the world's most populous country.
Manly chief executive David Perry said the club was prepared to be patient as it looked to form a long-term association with China.
''We wouldn't be doing this unless we thought there was some momentum and consistent frequency of having an event up there,'' Perry said yesterday.
''I think the plan would be to lock ourselves into a set term, and the NRL is certainly supportive of a game over there regularly in the future. If you're going to go down this path, you have to focus on a five-year plan at least in the short term … You'd want to play three games in the next five years as a minimum, to get a real feel for whether there's any opportunity in the future.''
Fox Sports has agreed in principle to the initiative, and is determining whether it is financially viable.
Should it approve, the NRL will then send a letter to the Chinese high commission outlining the support it would require for the game to go ahead.
It is believed the match could be scheduled up to two weeks before the official season kick-off, giving both sides a chance to recover from the arduous travelling schedule before round two.
Canberra signed a major sponsorship deal with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei earlier this year. Manly's main backer, Russian technology company Kaspersky, also rates China as one of its key markets.
''You'd think we'd have to have Canberra and Manly playing over there for the first two years at least, to get some leverage for the sponsors and those that are helping us make it happen,'' Perry said.
''The NRL thinks the timing is good from their perspective because of the major sponsors of both clubs, we believe we can leverage the game stronger and get more traction because of it.''
Kaspersky was the major sponsor of AFL club Melbourne when they played an exhibition game in China against Brisbane in 2010.
But Perry insisted the NRL needs to play a fully-fledged competition game if it is serious about capturing China's imagination.
''[The Demons] were really happy with that and you really can't measure it until you get a bit of frequency around it,'' he said.
''The initial one-off was a good one, but it was an exhibition game. We may as well take the proper event there to showcase the quality of the product we have and tap into an emerging market for the game.
''All key stakeholders are very motivated to make it happen in the best interests of the game, and we're in the early stages of due diligence in seeing whether it's feasible for next season or whether we work toward 2014.''