9 Apr 2020

NRL plans for 28 May return amid coronavirus

7:56 pm on 9 April 2020

The NRL is planning to restart its season on 28 May amid the coronavirus pandemic, while it has been accused by the Nine Network of financial "mismanagement" and breaking its lucrative broadcast deal.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the NZ Vodafone Warriors attacks during their match against the Canberra Raiders in the NRL.

Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in action against the Canberra Raiders before the NRL 2020 season was postponed. Photo: Photosport

The ARL Commission made the announcement about wanting the premiership season to resume late next month following a meeting with its innovations committee today.

The decision was announced after Nine released a statement this morning taking aim at the NRL's financial management, which it claimed had left clubs and players facing uncertain futures.

"The details on the competition structure we haven't got yet because the landscape is changing around government boundaries," ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce said.

"That will feed into the complexity structure. Today what we landed on was a starting date.

"We haven't finalised what that [competition] looks like yet. Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands of people who are out of work through clubs and millions of fans.

"It's a mark for everyone to work towards that's associated with the game."

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Pearce said the league had not worked out when the season would be completed.

"That's the piece of work we need to do that's subject to a number of variables, one of which is government regulations," he said.

"If they're stringent and players aren't able to go back to their home environment that makes it difficult to expect them to be away from their kids for a long period of time.

"I think there's a lot of positives with the competition up and running again. The players, staff at clubs, services to clubs that will benefit.

"There's a lot of people that will be happy with the decision to get the competition running again."

The NRL season was suspended after two rounds last month because of coronavirus fears, with the league having made the decision a day after the AFL announced it was shutting down its competition.

Channel Nine launches scathing attack on NRL

Nine said it had been left out of discussions on what the NRL season should look like if it resumed in the coming months.

"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 Nine Network statement read.

"But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years."

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys. Photo: Photosport

Nine said it had provided the NRL with a substantial financial investment during its tenure as the competition's free-to-air broadcaster.

"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 read.

"In the past the NRL have had problems and we've bailed them out many times, including a $50 million 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."

Pearce said the ARL Commission wanted to continue working with the Nine Network.

"They're a key partner for us and we intend to fulfil our contractual obligations," he said.

"We hope to maintain a working relationship that will work for both parties."

Nine's statement came after weeks of speculation surrounding the future of current NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg.

Greenberg is currently in the final year of his contract.