Nine accuses ‘bloated’ NRL of mismanagement as 2020 broadcast discussion comes to blows

The discussion, or lack thereof, over the 2020 broadcast of the NRL season has turned ugly with rights partner Nine accusing the sporting body of “mismanagement over many years”.

The aggression follows a decision by the NRL to bring the season back on 28 May, just seven weeks away, with a 15-round season the suggested offering. The NRL allegedly came to this decision without liaising with its broadcast partners. Nine currently holds the free-to-air (FTA) broadcast rights for the NRL until 2022.

Greenberg and V’landys are planning for the season to return at the end of May, but Nine isn’t happy with the choice

Nine isn’t happy with the decision and has accused the NRL of squandering the money it receives from its broadcast partners.

“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. But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years,” said a Nine spokesperson.

“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. In the past the NRL have had problems and we’ve bailed them out many times – including a $50m 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.”

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and chairman Peter V’landys will meet to approve the NRL’s proposition, according to reports, with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro backing the return.

A $2bn broadcast deal was announced in 2015, running from 2018 onwards, with Nine and Fox Sports committing the majority of the money. That money is now under question, with Nine wondering why the funding isn’t being committed to supporting clubs during the crisis.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg’s head could be on the chopping block currently, with whispers floating even before Nine’s explosion that he may be replaced amid the COVID-19 struggles. His contract ceases at the end of 2020.

Nine revealed it was set to save $130m from not airing the NRL season in 2020, something it was flagging as a positive in its bid to survive the economic struggles media companies are facing as ad spend plummets.


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