Interview: Strong business support for Papua New Guinea rugby league in Queensland Cup


Papua New Guinea joins the Queensland Cup rugby league competition next year and may also field teams in the QRL’s elite junior competitions by 2015/2016. It’s an ambitious move to improve the national game. And, as PNG Rugby League CEO Brad Tassell tells Business Advantage PNG, it has already garnered strong business support.

Brad TassellBusiness Advantage PNG (BAPNG): What’s the next stage in joining the Queensland Cup competition?

Brad Tassell [BT] The General Manager for the Queensland Cup competition, Jamie O’Connor, is coming up later this month. He’s up here to inspect the venue, the accommodation, and discuss logistics about travel for the visiting teams. He’ll also meet with the radio and TV networks to talk about rights. I’ll be flying back with him to attend a clubs’ meeting and then we’ll sign the five-year participation agreement.

BAPNG: How many games will be played in PNG?

BT: All 12 games. It’s a 24-game season-12 played at home, 12 away. We have an approved venue at Rabaul, at the Kalabond Stadium in Kokopo. It’s a beautiful playing surface, and all home games will be played in Rabaul in the first two years.

We hope they enjoy it too much so we give them a thumping when they come up.

The long-term plan is that there’s a 25-thousand seat stadium being built in Port Moresby. That will also have an academy, training and accommodation facilities. That will be our home base two years from now, so we will play nine games there, with hopefully one game in Kokopo, one in Goroka, and one in Lae throughout the year, provided their facilities are upgraded. So it gives people throughout the country an opportunity see a game each year.

BAPNG: Are you seeking business sponsors?

BT: Absolutely. It’s a private franchise, owned by the PNG Rugby League and this is an entity that’s almost entirely privately funded. We have got some government support for the initial phase, the first couple of years. After that, we want to be 100% self-sufficient. We want this to be a profitable venture for the PNGRFL and we want to generate some income that can be generated back into national programmes in PNG.

Naming rights for the first three years have already been bought by SP Brewery.

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We’ve got a commitment from the government to contribute K1.5 million each year for the first five years. That money will help establish the franchise, getting equipment, management and strategies in place. That’s the most important phase. The first two years of the competition we’ve made some commitments to the Queensland competition with regards to opposition teams’ travel as well as our own. That’s an added expense, but we were fully aware that that commitment would have to be made.

We have standard packages. Naming rights for the first three years have already been bought by SP Brewery. We’ve also got the space at the top back of the jersey, bottom back of jersey. I think we’ve only got one of those packages left at the moment so there’s no shortage of investment in the programme by private enterprise up here, and we’re also getting enquiries from businesses in Australia who do business in PNG about sponsorship. So people recognise it as a valuable market tool.

BAPNG: It sounds as though you have sponsorships wrapped up?

BT: Oh no, we’re always looking for more sponsors. We’ve got corporate packages, we’ve got platinum packages for a smaller investment. They’re valued at K75,000 a year and they get certain benefits with the club. We’re also looking for a bottom-back-of-jersey sponsor which is valued at K500,000 and that’s exposure on all the player uniforms as well as training uniforms. And we’re also yet to tie up airline and car sponsors.

BAPNG: What is the budget to join the Queensland competition?

BT: Well, the budget we’ve prepared for Year One is about K6 million. But that’s start-up costs as well-buying equipment, paying the players, full-time staff,  so that’s basically the entire programme.

BAPNG: Has the Kumul’s performance in the 2013 World Cup dampened enthusiasm to join the Queensland competition?

BA: No. If anything, I think it’s really hit home how much we do need to get regular competition. We need to have our players playing at a higher level of competition, week in, week out. We can’t expect resident players to play on a world stage against countries who have players who play at the elite NRL level, week in, week out. We need to have our players playing at the highest level possible.

We need to create a pathway for our players to play in the [Australian] NRL and that’s why the Queensland Cup programme is extremely important. It will provide a pathway for our players to get in front of NRL clubs and scouts on a weekly basis and hopefully it will provide a pathway for more PNG players to be playing the NRL competition.

We can’t expect resident players to play on a world stage against countries who have players who play at that level, week in, week out. We need to have our players playing at the highest level possible.

If you go back to the previous World Cup and the world cup before that, a lot of the South Pacific nations were made up of residents. This World Cup, you’d find that 20-22 players from each squad are all NRL players who play week in, week out.  We’ve been left behind in that respect and that’s why the Queensland Cup is extremely important.

BAPNG: What are the plans for hosting the some of the games for the 2017 World Cup?

BT: We were approached by the Australian Rugby League Clubs put in a combined bid with New Zealand and asked if we were interested in hosting games or playing an entire pool in PNG. Of course, it’s a big coup if we get an opportunity to do that.  We went to the government and they’ve been supportive because with a World Cup the type of economic benefits it would bring are enormous and we’re very hopeful that we will be part of that 2017 World Cup, by hosting games.

By then, we will have had the 2015 Pacific Games, so apart from the new stadium at Lloyd Robson Oval, there’s a heap of other facilities, including Sir Hubert Murray Stadium and Taurama which are being developed into an Olympic class swimming facility and training facility. There are also accommodation facilities being built.

So, after 2015, there will be a number of fantastic facilities around Port Moresby particularly, capable of hosting 2017 games. And there’s also Kokopo where there are plans to upgrade its stadium to house 10,000 people. And hopefully, there’ll be the opportunity to upgrade the stadiums at Lae and Goroka in the coming years.

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