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Nine locks horns with NRL, again, over ‘premature’ return to competition

The NRL and its broadcast partner Nine have locked horns again over the decision to push forward with plans for a May 28 restart despite the media company’s concerns over the viability of an early return.

A spokesperson for Nine said that the conversations to date had been ‘constructive’ but that the plans in place by the sporting league were ‘premature’. But ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is having none of it, insisting the show will go on and calling the discussions around the NRL season’s future ‘scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric’.

The discussions between Nine CEO Hugh Marks and the NRL haven’t yet reached their conclusion

“Although we agree constructive discussions have been held between the NRL, Nine and Foxtel, we feel it’s premature to be confirming a start date at this stage – there is a great will to work together to an outcome but a lot of work still to do,” said the Nine spokesperson.

“A deal needs to be completed and the structure of the competition locked which importantly must include how it will operate within the health and safety standards currently affecting the community.”

V’landys hit back at the comments on Nine’s Today show this morning, calling today ‘D-Day’ and saying a decision would be made. He also implied that Foxtel and Nine haven’t agreed on their response to the season, saying ‘We have two different broadcasters – one has a different view to the other’.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has already lost his job over the frustrations that have arisen since the sporting code has attempted to relaunch its 2020 season. The sport was suspended amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, but announced several weeks ago it would return sooner than expected thanks to approval from the NSW State Government.

However, Nine feel the decision came too early and without appropriate discussions between the sport and its broadcast partners.

The war of words has begun again following the announcement from Australian Rugby League (ARL) commissioner Wayne Pearce who said the season would ‘definitely’ resume at the end of May, with 16 teams set to return to training shortly.

It’s understood that neither Nine or Foxtel have ruled out a May 28 return but that neither partner feels like the proper discussions have been held to facilitate that. This includes confirmation on whether players from other states will be allowed to take part and should begin training.

Nine’s words for the NRL this time were a lot softer than the last time the duo locked horns. The broadcaster’s accusations of ‘mismanagement’ and ‘a bloated head office’ seemed to be the precursor to Greenberg’s job loss with the former chief executive stepping down just 10 days later. He isn’t the only sporting boss to lose his crown during COVID-19 – it was announced yesterday that Rugby CEO Raelene Castle would also be stepping down.

Nine currently holds the free-to-air (FTA) broadcast rights for the NRL until 2022.

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