Murdoch sees victory ahead

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Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate, yesterday predicted victory in his fight for control of Australian rugby league. Murdoch said the power struggle with the Australian Rugby League, the sport's national ruling body, would be settled in his favour within two years.

"I will win and the ARL will collapse, whether it will be this year or the year after I don't know," Murdoch told reporters after his News Corporation's annual meeting in Adelaide.

Murdoch set off a civil war in March when he signed many of the country's leading players for the rebel Super League, which is due to kick off next March in competition with the ARL.

Asked if he would consider a compromise, Murdoch replied: "No. They [the ARL] will have to go away. It is hard to deal with people like that," Murdoch said. "There is too much emotion involved and too much money."

News Ltd, the local arm of Murdoch's media empire, is embroiled in a court case with the ARL which is expected to determine the Super League's immediate future.

Murdoch began the court action in an attempt to remove eight clubs, including Sydney Bulldogs and Brisbane Broncos, from ARL jurisdiction, allowing them to defect to Super League next year.

In a counter-claim seeking damages against News Ltd, the ARL claims the clubs are bound to the existing competition until 2000. A victory for the ARL in Sydney's federal court would delay the Super League's kick- off for 12 months. "We felt it was essential to attack the monopoly in rugby league in Sydney," Murdoch said.

Murdoch is planning to broadcast Super League matches on his worldwide pay television interests, including the Foxtel cable system in Australia, due to be launched later this month. Murdoch's rival, Kerry Packer, holds ARL rights until the year 2000. Packer also plans to broadcast the matches on Optus Vision, a rival to Foxtel, in which he has a five per cent stake.