Peter V'landys is tipping newly crowned NRL chief Andrew Abdo to be "the best CEO we've ever had" as the ARL Commission looks to trim $40-50 million from operating costs before tackling plans for a second Brisbane-based club.
Abdo was officially elevated on Thursday morning from acting CEO role he has filled since April since Todd Greenberg stepped down from the role.
Having overseen the game's resumption from a COVID-19 enforced hiatus on May 28 – making rugby league the first Australian professional sport to return to play – V'landys said Abdo had come through the "longest job interview in history" and left no doubt about succeeding Todd Greenberg in a full-time capacity.
V'landys: Abdo will be best NRL CEO ever
In his first address as CEO, Abdo outlined a three-phase plan to future-proof the game based on "stabilising, renovating and growing".
The first facet involves a final presentation of 2021 budget to the ARLC aiming to remove "somewhere in the region of $40-50 million" from NRL operational costs amidst the current global pandemic.
Abdo and V'landys flagged further exploration of expansion via a fourth Queensland-based side at the end of the season, but only once the game's long-term future is secured and short-term finances are established.
"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," Abdo said.
"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.
Andrew will probably be the best CEO we've ever had.Peter V'landys
"Of course it's emotional and difficult to make decisions around people and how we 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."
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 reiterated that finances would again dictate any expansion plans.
"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," V'landys said.
"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.
An introduction to rugby league came soon enough from the grandstand at ANZ Stadium at a Bulldogs-Rabbitohs game, before he joined the NRL in 2013.
Abdo most recently served as chief commercial officer, overseeing 15% revenue growth, year on year, for the four years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In taking on the role he spoke of "rebuilding trust" between the NRL and key stakeholders including players, clubs and broadcasters.
"As the headquarters of the sport you're often scrutinised by stakeholder and it's difficult to keep everyone happy," Abdo said.
"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. I think Peter has shown that the way you rebuild trust is through actions and regular communication."
Asked about the chairman's prediction that he could become the best all-time CEO of the league, he replied: "That's a pretty daunting hurdle set but I'd like to be judged on my actions, that I'm able to deliver with a number of stakeholders.
"What's motivating me is to leave the game in a better position in this role.
"The reason why I've accepted this job is because I feel I have the support from Peter and the board. Let me be clear, we're not promising everything to everyone, but we want to be clear with what the objectives are."