HE was criticised a decade and a half ago for believing rugby league could be globalised but John Ribot is convinced the new owners of the Melbourne Storm will do just that for the club he founded.
The former CEO of Super League told Fairfax Media he had met members of the consortium about to take control of the NRL and world champions and was satisfied the Storm would be in good hands after the change of ownership from News Limited.
Ribot said the group included the highest calibre of expertise in marketing and sponsorship and Melbourne sports fans would see the rugby league club breaking new ground in those areas over the next few years.
“I’ve been criticised, many years ago, over the globalisation of things. Well, you are clearly seeing that now, our game is being globalised,” Ribot said at Brisbane Airport, where he was in transit to Sydney on a business trip.
“That’s a great thing for the game and these guys can certainly take it into that arena.
“If the speculation is right, if it’s the people who could potentially be involved in this, I think the future for Melbourne Storm is really exciting.
“From a sports marketing point of view, we’re going to very fortunate.
“They’ll certainly have the potential to become real leaders in our game
“It’s going to be a win-win for everybody. News, what they’ve done to date has been great but now it’s time to hand the baton over
“It will go to another level but bring them (News) along for the ride too.”
It is expected ownership of the Storm will be transferred this week, with the consortium of English, New Zealand and Australian businessmen having access to more than $20 million in NRL funding which was guaranteed as part of News’ exit.
New CEO Mark Evans, formerly with Harlequins and Saracens rugby union clubs, is expected back in Australia to finalise the deal.
New initiatives are expected to include tying home matches in with movie premiers, travel packages and public holidays as well as taking games to exotic venues.
On the field, the Storm are expecting some team changes ahead of Monday Night Football at AAMI Park against Manly, with centre Justin O’Neill and interchange player Slade Griffin carrying niggling injuries.
Such is the feeling between the sides that two senior referees, Matt Cecchin and Shayne Hayne, have been appointed to the match – unusual this season.
“Manly are a very aggressive team but all the good teams are aggressive – some in different ways than others,” said coach Craig Bellamy.
“That’s their style of game. We’re aware of that. We’ve played them plenty of times.
“It’s about finding a bit more passion for our footy. We’ve been a bit unexcited about the start of our games.”
For Manly, James Hasson is reportedly on stand-by for Tom Symonds who has a quad muscle injury.
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE