Collision course: QRL hits out on expansion debate
The Queensland Rugby League is on an expansion collision course with ARL Commission boss Peter V'landys amid fears a second Brisbane team to rival the Broncos could financially cripple the sport.
The QRL board will meet on Friday and V'landys was poised to fly north to garner support from QRL executives for a 17-team competition in 2023 after he toured Sydney clubs in recent days to outline his vision for expansion.
V'landys was forced to cancel at the 11th-hour due to illness, but his real migraine could come in the form of QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher, who is not convinced the NRL can sustain a 17th club.
Forecasts suggest a second Brisbane team is worth $50 million annually to the code and V'landys would prefer to launch a new franchise without political resistance from the body that administers the game in Queensland.
But V'landys could find himself at loggerheads with veteran QRL administrator Hatcher, a renowned straight-shooter who believes in relocating a Sydney club to form Brisbane's second team.
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"The three Queensland teams aren't going well and the question is - does the game have the talent to sustain a second Brisbane team?" Hatcher said.
"What I am waiting to see is the financial feasibility of how expansion is going to work because a decision like that can potentially affect the Queensland Rugby League's funding.
"Until I see a financial feasibility from the NRL, I can't say I want 17 teams because it's been very hard on the NRL with COVID and the financial pressure to keep the game alive.
"To be fair to Peter and Andrew (Abdo, NRL CEO), I haven't seen enough detail around expansion and it's been our plan to meet with them for sometime.
"We have two strong female directors who believe more should be invested in the women's game, so there's plenty of topics of discussion.
"My view is yes we need a second Brisbane team, but do we have to grow to 17?
"My point is I'm a relocation person. It makes sense to me that if you have nine teams in Sydney, then one can be relocated to form a second club in Brisbane.
"It's a supply-and-demand issue."
The Courier-Mail understands a number of Sydney clubs are in favour of a 17-team league.
One critical supporter is Roosters supremo Nick Politis, who moved from Greece to Ipswich in Brisbane's western corridor and has become one of Australia's richest businessmen worth in excess of $1 billion.
Previous NRL regimes have investigated the prospect of relocation, particularly to Perth, but V'landys hit back at Hatcher, insisting he will never order a Sydney team to move to Queensland.
"It's very simple - there will be no relocation," V'landys said.
"Unless a team came to us and wanted to do it, even then we would think seriously about it.
"I will not force any team to relocate. I have given that undertaking to all clubs and I will honour my word as long as I'm in this position.
"Sydney clubs have spent decades building their brands, so we're not destroying all that history to give Brisbane people a relocated team.
"This game is about tribalism ... and moving a Sydney team to Queensland will not build tribalism."
Originally published as Collision course: QRL hits out on expansion debate