Channel Nine blasts NRL over lost fortune, season relaunch in doubt amid virus disaster
By Tim Elbra
35 minutes ago
The NRL and Channel Nine are at a massive impasse over the season relaunch, with Nine seething that the league has planned without consulting the broadcaster.Nine says that it currently considers its contract unfulfilled and has blasted the NRL for wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast revenue.The free-to-air broadcaster has been largely left in the dark on the NRL’s plans to relaunch the season amid coronavirus. Nine is fuming, rugby league reporter Danny Weidler said in breaking the story on Thursday.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is firmly in the gun, with Nine saying that the NRL had been mismanaged for years and was now suffering the consequences.“I think this has really taken the NRL by surprise,” Weidler said. “Obviously a lot of those comments are pointed at the CEO, Todd Greenberg. I think it’s going to be very difficult to see him continuing on in his role for much longer.”
In an explosive statement to Weidler, a Nine spokesperson said: "At Nine we had hoped to work with the NRL on a solution to the issues facing Rugby League in 2020, brought on so starkly by COVID-19. But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years.
"Nine has invested hundreds of millions in this game over decades and we now find they have profoundly wasted those funds with very little to fall back on to support the clubs, the players and supporters. "In the past the NRL have had problems and we’ve bailed them out many times. Including a $50m loan to support clubs when the last contract was signed."It would now appear that much of that has been squandered by a bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of the clubs, players and supporters.
“We now find ourselves with a contract that is unfulfilled by the code. We hoped we could talk through a long term plan.”
There has been speculation for months of Greenberg losing his job in a new era for the Australian Rugby League Commission, headed by powerful chairman Peter V’landys. The ARLC did not trigger an extension clause in Greenberg’s contract earlier this year.
Yet V’landys recently said that Greenberg was safe; a status that may have suddenly changed with Nine’s statement.
Nine and Fox Sports committed the bulk of a $2 billion broadcast agreement with the NRL when a five-year deal was announced in 2015, for the 2018 season onwards.
Despite the unprecedented windfall for the game, clubs are at risk of extinction as the NRL grapples with the temporary loss of games and broadcast revenue during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The NRL’s ‘Project Apollo’ committee was meeting on Thursday to further discuss relaunch plans. A 15-round competition (with two rounds already played) has been touted, with a May 21 restart.
Teams may be based at a Western Sydney hub for the relaunch, in an attempt to keep players quarantined as much as possible