The National Rugby League (NRL) was initially formed in the year 1997, after the Super League war which occurred during the mid-1990s. Though the NRL has relatively not been around for a long time, it has experienced tremendous growth and enjoyed record attendance figures.
The NRL Structure Between 1998 and 2012
An agreement between News Limited and Australia Rugby League (ARL) was administered by a partnership executive committee, which also made the major financial decisions. The committee was made up of six representatives, three from each of the parties. The partnership committee also commissioned a National Rugby League Board of six delegates, which had the responsibility of administering the competition. The two parties each nominated a chairman to lead the board on an annually alternating basis.
The NRL, and not the clubs, was responsible for marketing the premiership and organising final matches and draws. After finalisation of the draw, the clubs got the responsibility of organising and controlling assigned home games.
The Beginning of NRL in 1998
The corporate sponsorships and crowd attendances were spread thin in 1997, which left many teams in difficult financial situations. The ARL announced in September 1997 that a new company was being formed to help control the competition in the following year.
The Super League clubs were also invited by the ARL to participate. Representatives of the clubs which were affiliated by the ARL met on the 19th December 1998 and voted on whether to accept the settlement offer made by News Limited. The votes turned out in favour by 36 to four votes. The NRL was thus formed, as a result, owned jointly by News Limited and ARL.
Among the conditions stipulated in the peace agreement between News Limited and ARL was that a competition among 14 teams would take place in the year 2000. An assessment would be made on the 20 clubs which competed in 1998, based on factors such as crowds, sponsorships, and on-field success, among others. The clubs that would merge would be guaranteed of a position in the 2000 competition and would also receive a substantial amount of money.
The Souths, however, were axed from the competition in 1999 with reasons being that they had not met the criteria required. A marching protest and court ruling did not help the Souths, but they were re-admitted into the competition after appealing the court ruling. Telstra, a telecommunications provider, became the naming rights sponsor in 2001. The name of the tournament became NRL Telstra Premiership.