NRL CEO Dave Smith has been given an ultimatum: Either you go or we do.
The threat comes from some of the most powerful figures in rugby league – frustrated with the changes and inconsistencies implemented by Smith in his year at the helm.
Last week’s TV rights negotiations saw Fox Sports and Telstra effectively snubbed from the deal. This caused much heated discussion and finger pointing among club presidents towards Smith and Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman John Grant.
In response, 12 clubs are considering breaking away from the NRL in 2017 when their contracts expire.
The new 12 club league would leave out those clubs currently being supported by the NRL: Wests tigers, St George Illawarra, Newcastle, and the perennially embattled Gold Coast.
The influential figures were incensed when Fox Sports and Telstra were omitted from the TV right negotiations.
This fury was only multiplied when News Corp then partnered with the Seven Network to inject $2.5 billion into AFL through a revised television deal – money that could have gone to them.
These blunders are, however, just the latest in a long list of complaints against Smith: Inconsistent judiciary rulings, the insipid and unclear changes made to the shoulder charge rule, and the multi-million dollar blowout of executive salaries for certain staff employed by Smith have incurred ire at every turn.
The game’s powerbrokers, it seems, have finally had enough.