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NRL delivering $40m rescue package to clubs

The NRL is delivering a $40 million rescue package to the 16 Telstra Premiership clubs to help them cope with the financial impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

After the ARL Commission met on Monday morning, chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg held a phone hook-up with the clubs, announcing each team would receive $2.5 million to help get them through this unprecedented period where the competition has been suspended.

V’landys and Greenberg issued a statement to say the plan "provided funding certainty for the remainder of the 2020 season".

The deal, unanimously supported by all 16 clubs, was created on the back of a significant whole of game cost reduction. 

"We have a consolidated plan and working with the clubs and the players, are united in our efforts to do all we can to protect rugby league," V’landys said. 

"We had no option but to stop the competition in the wake of advice from our biosecurity and pandemic expert but remain optimistic that the season will restart as quickly as possible, ideally by July 1.

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"If that isn’t possible, then we need to be prepared for all contingencies.

"The crisis has highlighted that the game’s present cost structure is not sustainable and the ARLC will lead by example in substantially reducing its costs now and into the future.

Many clubs have already stood coaches, football department and administration staff on annual leave, unpaid leave or positions have been made redundant in some cases.

The revised financial models give clubs the capacity to survive the financial year with a remodelled 20-week competition, including final series and Origin, or a worst-case scenario of no football being played again this year. 

The "wildcard weekend" idea has also been raised as a possibility - the ARL Commission has instituted a committee to look into ways the season can condense its calendar into the latter parts of the year and one of the options under consideration is the wildcard weekend format for the finals.

Under the system, the teams that finish in the top six would advance directly to the finals with the seventh-placed side meeting the 10th-ranked outfit and clubs eight and nine also battling it out in elimination matches to determine the final two spots in the top eight.

Details of the recovery plan include:

  • The NRL will pay a total of $40 million in monthly grant payments to the clubs between April and October to cover their ongoing operational costs. This is an increase of $6.4m of funding compared to the 2020 budget;
  • The NRL will reduce its operating costs by 53%, including a 95% reduction in staffing levels during the shutdown period and a 25% cut in executive salaries.

In addition, the NRL has proposed a funding model for player payments to the RLPA which will be provided to its members for consideration.

RLPA boss Clint Newton will brief his members on the proposals and it expected to be resolved in the next 48 hours.

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Greenberg said although the decisions involved short-term pain, the measures would protect the sustainability of the game and set it up for the future.

"We are working together to achieve the best outcome in the short, and long term. We must use this opportunity to reset the game’s costs and overall structure," he said. 

"These measures will put the game in the best position to rebound strongly from the pandemic."

The 20-week competition would feature the remaining 13 rounds of the season so that each team would play every opponent once, plus a four-week finals series and a three-week State of Origin contest.

The NRL remains open to playing all matches at a single location, potentially in regional Queensland although that scenario will depend on the costs involved. Irrespective of where they are played, all fixtures could be staged behind closed doors, if that is the advice of the government and health authorities.

There are also hopes to fit women's Origin, originally scheduled to be held on the Sunshine Coast in June, into the revised schedule.

The future of the NRLW is yet to be finalised due to the financial uncertainty surrounding the sport and whether all four clubs will be able to fund a team this season but the ARL Commission is hopeful of the competition going ahead.