The NRL has responded to a scathing attack from broadcast partner Channel 9, declaring the league intends to “fulfil its contractual obligations”.
While the league’s innovation committee gathered to discuss proposals to resume its season on Thursday, Nine launched a stinging broadside on the game.
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The NRL went on to announce a May 28 resumption of its competition, however failed to explain how the structure of the season would look like.
Initially, a 15-round regular season, ten less than originally scheduled prior to the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, was being considered.
However, hours after Nine’s criticism, it emerged the league is looking at completing all 25 rounds, which would result in a November grand final.
“(Nine are) a key partner for us and we intend to fulfil our contractual obligations. Hopefully we can maintain a working relationship that’s going to work for both parties,” ARLC commissioner Wayne Pearce said on Thursday.
Later ARLC chairman Peter V’landys apologised to the network, who were understood to be furious with being left out of talks focused on restarting the season.
“If there’s been miscommunication and Channel 9 feel they haven’t been part of the process, absolutely (I apologise),” V’landys told The Nine Network.
“There’s no doubt that the cost structure that’s in place for the game at the moment is unsustainable, so that (criticism) is accurate.”
A November finish for the NRL would mean a clash with the men’s T20 World Cup, whose broadcast rights are also owned by the Nine Network.
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Up to four cricket matches would coincide with possible NRL finals fixtures. In an explosive statement released on Thursday morning, Nine accused the NRL of financial mismanagement and claimed they had broken their broadcast deal.
“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,” the statement read.
“But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years.” The NRL is in the third of a five-year broadcast deal, most of which is with Nine and Fox Sports, worth a reported $1.8 billion.
The deal with pay television broadcaster Fox Sports is believed to be worth $1 billion, while free-to-air broadcaster, Nine, is worth an estimated $625 million.
However just last week, Nine announced it would save $130 million if the remainder of the NRL season was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Free-to-air networks are also believed to be suffering from a 20 per cent reduction in advertising revenue during the pandemic.
Nine’s attack comes after weeks of speculation surrounding the future of current NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg.
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Greenberg is currently in the final year of his contract.
“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,” the statement continued.
“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.”
Originally published asNRL’s awkward reply to vicious Nine spray
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