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NRL announces season suspension

NRL announces season suspension
March 24, 2020

Having made despite attempts to keep the competition running, including the league’s staging its second round behind closed doors over the weekend, the NRL has announced that its 2020 season has been suspended indefinitely.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman, Peter V’landys and NRL Chief Executive, Todd Greenberg announced the decision to suspend the season over growing concerns over Coronavirus yesterday evening following a conference call with clubs and after consultation with health experts.

V'landys stated “it is no longer safe for our players to play.

"We were alarmed at how everything changed over the past 24 hours.

"We've left it open and will make further announcements in the future. All options are still on the table but what's paramount is the health of our players.”

V'landys immediately advised that the suspension had plunged the game into a “financial crisis”, adding “it's catastrophic, I don't think we've ever come across a financial crisis like it."

Europe's Super League competition had already brought a halt to competition last week, and there have been fears expressed as to the financial stability of clubs while there is no matchday revenue.

NRL clubs enjoy a salary cap more than twice the size of their northern hemisphere counterparts, and their broadcast deal was worth $1.8 billion over five years when it was signed in 2017.

However, the league has no assets and is almost solely reliant on the broadcast money, which in the event of no competition leaves them in a potentially difficult financial position.

Reports suggest as much as $13 million could be lost from broadcasters for every round not played, or $500 million for the entire year.

Players are likely to be asked to take pay cuts, while V'landys also confirmed the league would likely seek Federal Government support as part of the Economic Stimulus package.

He added “you can't understate it, it's probably the biggest challenge the game will ever face financially.

"Rugby league will always survive in some way but I can't guarantee it will in the same way. We're ready for the worst."

Greenberg went on to say "today is a difficult day for the rugby league community and at head office.

"We've briefed our clubs and all players have been told. We've asked players to not turn up to training tomorrow.

"While I say it's a tough day for the game, I know it's a tough time for everyone across our community."

Unlike the AFL on Sunday, the NRL have opted against putting a return date for play. Instead, they have told players to remain in self-isolation and will begin consider multiple options on getting back on the field.

V’landys concluded “we are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season.

“Be it in other areas or northern Queensland. All the options are still on the table.

“We’ve left (the recommencement date) open and will probably make some announcements in the future. All options are still on table.”

The NRL is understood to be considering playing a restarted season until as late as 20th December, giving them around three months to return given split rounds and representative rounds could be manipulated.

The NRL’s suspension of its competition means the A-League is the only elite competition still running in Australia.

Images: NRL captains at the 2020 season launch (top) and Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman, Peter V’landys (below).

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