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NRL names new Chief Executive while targeting $50 million in cuts

NRL names new Chief Executive while targeting $50 million in cuts
September 4, 2020

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman, Peter V’landys has announced Andrew Abdo as the new permanent Chief Executive of the National Rugby League, while revealing the code is looking to reduce operating costs $40-by up to $50 million.

Abdo has been officially elevated from the acting Chief Executive role he has filled since April following former postholder Todd Greenberg being forced to resign.

V’landys advised that having overseen the NRL's resumption from a COVID-19 enforced hiatus on 28th May - making the NRL the first Australian professional sport to return to play - Abdo had come through the "longest job interview in history" while expressing confidence in his ability to succeed in a full-time capacity.

Making his first statement since his confirmation as Chief Executive, Abdo said he plans to introduce a three-phase plan to protect the future of the game based on “stabilising, renovating and growing”, going on to state “the Commission has set us the task of making sure that we’re sustainable so that we can rebuild our balance sheet, ensure our finances and invest in the two things that we have to think about.

“One is the elite side of the sport, the entertainment side of the business.

“And the other is investing in the future, participation, pathways, and grassroots.

“Of course its emotional and difficult to make decisions around people and how, but we have a job to do and we have to think about interests long-term and the long-term sustainability of the game and put that above personal or short-term decisions.

“As the headquarters of the sport you’re often scrutinised by stakeholder and it’s difficult to keep everyone happy.

“But I think one thing that has shown through this crisis, if we communicate regularly and are transparent about what we are doing, we might not make everyone happy all the time but we can build a sense of trust, unity and teamwork.

“It would be fairly obvious to say that from time to time there has been a deep mistrust between stakeholders in the game … but we’re rebuilding that (with) Peter having shown that the way you rebuild trust is through actions and regular communication.”

Yesterday’s presentation to the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) also included a final presentation of the code’s 2021 budget that has set out to remove "somewhere in the region of $40-50 million" from NRL operational costs amid the current global pandemic.

Abdo and V'landys also flagged further exploration of expansion via a fourth Queensland-based side (likely to be Brisbane-based) at the end of the season, but only once the game's long-term future is secured and short-term finances are established.

Expansion plans for another Queensland side in 2022 had gathered momentum prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and NRL's renegotiation of its broadcast deals with Foxtel and Channel Nine.

With Nine's new deal expiring in 2022 and Foxtel's extended through until 2027, 2023 looms as the earliest another club would be introduced to the Telstra Premiership, though V'landys stressed that finances would again dictate any expansion plans, advising “even though I'm a very strong supporter of a second team in Brisbane, it's got to be a strong business sense ... we can't cannibalise the Broncos or the Titans.

"So there's a lot of work to do in analysing that situation. There won't be a second Brisbane team unless the business case stacks up.

"We'll be doing that at the end of the year. There's plenty of time.

"There's no time set as to when we introduce a second Brisbane team. It might be a year away, two years away, three years away. But I stress again, the business case has to stack up."

Abdo's new permanent role continues his rise after relocating to Australia from South Africa eight years ago.

Joining the NRL in 2013, Abdo’s most recently served as Chief Commercial Officer, overseeing 15% revenue growth, year on year, for the four years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Images: Newly appointed NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo and ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys pictured yesterday (top, courtesy of Grant Trouville/NRL Photos) and 2020 NRL season action at the Sunshine Coast Stadium (below).

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