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NRL slashes operating costs by a third to survive pandemic

It is a stunning turnaround for an organisation that was spending almost $500,000 a day – or $181 million – just to run its competition in the previous financial year. The savings have come from a number of areas including a reduction of staff at head office, reduction of staff wages for part of the year and the scrapping of events. Some of the events that did go ahead, such as the Dally M awards, did so at a reduced cost.


The Herald obtained a copy of the financial report that was sent to clubs, which showed revenue generated for the year was $419,672,860, as opposed to $555,914,757 the previous year. The operating deficit was $24,742,261 after posting a surplus of $28,982,716 surplus 12 months earlier.

Reasons given for the decline include the downwards renegotiation of the broadcast rights deal and a decrease in game receipts, sponsorships, government grants and merchandising as a result of the pandemic.

A total of $11.4 million in football costs were marked as one-offs – including charter and relocation costs of $4 million – to run the game during the pandemic. Recurring football costs came in at $19.7m, down from $25.6m the previous year.

The NRL has already gone on record to state their intention to slash $50 million from the bottom line. It continues a more responsible approach to spending under ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo. It was widely expected that the new chairman and CEO pairing at head office would prompt a huge reset, but the pandemic fastracked the change.

The business underwent a significant restructure during the year, where more than 400 employees were previously spread across 10 divisions. Those numbers have been significantly streamlined and the clubs have been assured that the days of wild overspending at head office are over.

Meanwhile, the Dragons remain hopeful the NRL will reconsider the sanctions that the NRL has imposed upon Corey Norman for his role in a street brawl. Norman has requested a face-to-face meeting with NRL officials, although the governing body will likely await a formal response to the breach notice before deciding how to proceed. Norman is facing a one-game ban and a $20,000 fine.

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