ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo brokered deals they believe should allow all 16 clubs to receive the funding they require to survive the COVID-19 crisis. V’landys has promised to slash $50m in head office costs this season alone after the Herald revealed Rugby League Central was spending up to $500,000 per day to run its competition.
“I want to thank Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Nine CEO Hugh Marks for reaching an outcome that puts the fans and the game’s future first,” V’landys said.
“I am delighted to have worked with our long-standing partners Foxtel and Nine to reshape and resume the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. It is significant that on one of the most important days in our game’s history, we have finalised the deals to ensure its future.
“Our negotiations were tough but always in a spirit of goodwill and shared ambitions for the betterment of rugby league. We could not have reached our May 28 restart ambitions without the teamwork and collaboration of our partners.”
“These deals provide certainty to ensure our 16 clubs remain strong and that we can continue to invest in grassroots rugby league across our communities.”
The broadcast deal is the last major obstacle cleared after the NRL dealt with a seemingly never-ending series of impediments to a restart, ranging from government and medical concerns to anti-vaxxer dramas and a refereeing dispute.
The guaranteed revenue stream has raised the prospect of players’ pay remaining remaining unaffected in 2021 after they accepted a 20 per cent salary cut this season.
“As we approach the kick-off for the resumption of NRL season 2020, I want to congratulate Peter on his leadership, and also Andrew for stepping into his role in these extremely difficult circumstances,” said Nine chief executive Hugh Marks.
“They have both enabled us to confidently move forward and invest in the future of NRL. The team at Nine are in this for the long term and we all look forward to working with the NRL and all the stakeholders, as we continue to build on the success of the game for its long-term future.
“Our on-air and production teams have combined to bring even more excitement to the game, further enhancing the experience for the fans at home starting tonight. Let’s now all enjoy the game.”
Nine’s commitment comes after threats to walk away from rugby league altogether. In April, Nine launched a stinging attack at the NRL, describing it as a “bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of the clubs, players and supporters.” Those comments heaped further pressure on then-NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, who stepped down from the role 11 days later.
Since then, the parties have been locked in a series of productive meetings that have resulted in a favourable outcome.
“Foxtel is incredibly pleased to support the NRL through this difficult period and to have footy back on Foxtel this weekend, every round, every game, live and ad free during play,” said Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany.
“This is a great outcome for footy, for fans and for players. It’s also a hugely important signal to everyone in Australia, and around the world, that we will get through these times, and we can keep players and coaching staff safe while we all enjoy the game.
“The agreement between Foxtel and the NRL extends our existing broadcast rights for a further five years and cements our position as the Home of NRL until 2027. It provides the NRL with the certainty to continue to develop the status of the game and gives fans the go to destination for the best of NRL, all in one place.
“Being back on the field and back on air tonight doesn’t happen without leadership. I want to acknowledge Peter V’landys AM and everyone at the NRL and the clubs for their passion to get the game back. It’s been outstanding.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.