World Club Challenge: Big game, big crowd but little cash reward for Roosters and Wigan

World Club Champions. It ought to be considered one of rugby league’s most prestigious titles but as the Sydney Roosters discovered after they defeated Britain’s Wigan Warriors last Saturday, its monetary worth is a paltry $42,500.

”For a game of that stature you’d think it would be worth more,” said Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan when he was asked about the winner’s cheque.

The game was televised by Channel Nine and played in front of a whopping crowd of 31,515 at Allianz Stadium, where the defending NRL champions overpowered the visitors 36-14.

While the trophy presented to the tricolours was ornate, it is understood the size of the winner-takes-all cheque raised eyebrows – especially when it was noted North Queensland pocketed $370,000 for winning the Auckland Nines.

It was understood the NRL, which underwrote the match, needed a crowd of 26,000 – where adults tickets ranged from $55 to $25 – to break even after outlaying $350,000 for Wigan’s squad and support staff to fly business class to Australia, stay in quality accommodation, be fed and play.

It is understood the outlay made it impossible for the NRL to offer more prizemoney.

The match was controlled and underwritten by the NRL under the same format as the ”home ground” finals series, where a team may play the semi-final at their home ground. While the home team’s staff might perform their usual match day duties, which is overseen by NRL officials, it is the governing body that takes the gate.

Canavan said the public’s reaction to the game was a welcome surprise and he suggested more should be done to maximise the event. ”We didn’t expect 31,500, which was a great crowd,” he said.

”[There are some questions including] when do you stage the game? It’s been mentioned it could be played after the grand final and that it’s staged in the year the grand final was played – there’s merit in that.

”Do you expand it so it’s attached to the Nines and have guest overseas clubs play in the Nines and have them play in an expanded World Club Challenge? We found from our supporters there is an appetite for the match and those things ought to be considered.”

He said he had heard the thousands of Wigan supporters who travelled to Sydney for the match were disappointed that there was not a souvenir program produced for the historic match.

”We were disappointed as well,” Canavan said.

When asked whether the program was the NRL’s responsibility, he said: ”That’s where it lay.”

It is understood when the program issue was raised on the night the NRL blamed confusion. The organisation thought that because the Roosters were responsible for the logistics on the night, they would look after the program.

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