Rupert Murdoch has an uncanny ability to extract subsidies and concessions out of governments, and he’s on quite a roll at the moment. The state Labor governments in Victoria and Queensland have both just announced major investments in new or improved sporting stadia that will directly benefit Delaware-registered News Corporation, an unhappy investor in Australian rugby league.

Today’s Victorian budget will confirm an initial $10 million government commitment to a new $100 million stadium next to Olympic Park that will benefit Rupert’s Melbourne Storm, Eddie McGuire’s Collingwood and Melbourne’s A League soccer franchise which boasts wealthy rock promoter Glenn Wheatley as an investor. Then you have the $50 million commitment from the Beattie Government for a new stadium that will see the Gold Coast secure a new rugby league franchise.

News Corp owns 50% of the NRL competition, but Melbourne Storm is a 100% owned and has so far burnt through an estimated $20 million of News Corp’s funds. The new purpose-built stadium for rectangular sports might just help attract bigger crowds that could turn Storm’s finances around.

When you also consider that the Murdochs are hoping to extract a much bigger annual whack out of Channel Nine for the broadcast rights to rugby league, the Sun King might finally be about to recoup some of his $500 million investment in the failed Super League strategy that was meant to underpin Foxtel’s programming.

And a NSW Central Coaster writes:

Dear Crikey,

A word from the wise to governments ploughing money into new sporting stadiums. Don’t waste your money unless you have a piece of paper signed by the boss. Several years ago the Central Coast spent about $30 million dollars, feeling sure they would win a rugby league franchise. Most came from state and federal taxpayers.

Needless to say, we don’t have our own rugby league team, but we do have a white elephant stadium which gets used for the occasional football match, and will be used for some soccer. If the privately-owned NRL wants new stadiums, let it build them at its own expense, without subsidy from taxpayers, like any other business. And let no-one build a stadium “on spec” – they’re costly to build, keep and demolish, and in the case of Gosford, took the ground away from the local grass roots competition.

Peter Fray

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