Rugby League


Raiders and Sea Eagles press NRL on China fixture

It's a case of next year or bust when the Canberra Raiders and Manly Sea Eagles meet with the NRL on Thursday to find out whether a proposed fixture in China goes ahead in 2014.

Both clubs and their respective sponsors - Huawei and Kaspersky - are pushing for the historic game, but concede it won't happen at all if it is put on the backburner.

The major sticking points centre around who will underwrite the fixture, the length of the agreement and concerns for the welfare of players who have to back up in representative games the following week.

The annual costs of staging the game are about $1.5 million, but Huawei director of corporate and public affairs Jeremy Mitchell said it was imperative the NRL approved the proposal or risk missing an enormous opportunity.

''It definitely has to happen next year,'' Mitchell said. ''We've been openly disappointed they [the NRL] have come on board late, but they have hired the consultants so they understand the full potential. Kaspersky, Huawei, the Raiders and Manly have done everything they can, now it's up to the NRL to see how committed they are.''

Huawei and Kaspersky will take on the majority of the risk if the game delivers a financial loss.


They are hoping the NRL recognises the immense benefits of taking the game to the most populated country in the world.

Manly has proposed moving its round eight home game - pencilled in for Sunday, April 27, against the Raiders at Brookvale Oval - to the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The match has been allocated to Fox Sports and the pay-TV provider would need to approve a change if Channel Nine wants to broadcast the first game played outside of Australia or New Zealand for premiership points.

The Raiders and Manly have proposed a two-year agreement with an option for 2016, while it's understood the NRL wants a three-year deal.

Another issue is the burden on players selected for representative fixtures - the Australia v New Zealand Test match, on Friday, May 2, and also the City v Country game, on Sunday, May 4.

To get back from Shenzhen, the teams will need to travel an hour by bus to either Guangzhou or Hong Kong followed by a nine-hour flight to Sydney.

The NRL appointed Tom Parker as an independent consultant to perform an analysis of the project.

Parker is a director at Red Tape Consulting, a firm based in China that specialises in strategic advice, market research and business matching in the Chinese market.

Huawei and Kaspersky have been working on the proposal for the past two years.