NRL plunged into ‘financial crisis’ as season is suspended in response to Covid-19 | Sport

The 2020 NRL season has been suspended indefinitely, despite the league’s desperate attempts to keep the competition going amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Todd Greenberg and Peter V’landys announced the decision on Monday evening following a conference call with clubs and after consultation with health experts, and admitted the game had been plunged into a “financial crisis”.

The suspension will come into effect immediately before round three, with the NRL still exploring options on when and how it can resume the competition.

“This decision hasn’t been taken lightly but we have a world-renowned pandemic expert and they are very concerned at the rate of this infection,” said ARLC chairman V’landys.

“We will and always will consider the health of our players before anything else.”

Unlike the AFL on Sunday, the NRL have opted against putting a return date for play. Instead, they have told players to remain in self-isolation and will begin consider multiple options on getting back on the field.

“We are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season,” V’landys said. “Be it in other areas or northern Queensland. All the options are still on the table.

“We’ve left [the return date] open and will probably make some announcements in the future. All options are still on table. But what’s paramount to our decision making is the health of our players.”

The decision could have dire financial impacts on the league, with V’landys warning it could change the face of the NRL if the season is completely lost. It’s believed as much as $13m could be lost from broadcasters for every round not played, or $500m for the entire year.

However, the NRL are willing to play until as late as 20 December, giving them around three months to return given split rounds and representative rounds could be manipulated.

“It’s catastrophic,” V’landys said. “I don’t think we have ever come across a financial crisis like this. We are all effected. This is a financial crisis. You can’t understate it. It’s probably the biggest financial challenge the game has faced in its history.”

Earlier, the NRL announced it will close its offices from Tuesday until at least 1 May, forcing hundreds of staff across all departments to take annual leave.

The office closures and forcing employees to take leave are the latest cost-cutting manoeuvres from executives, who had desperately fought to keep the game alive under “catastrophic” financial pressure.

It is understood Greenberg told employees it was all he could do to protect their livelihoods as the game edged closer to suspension of competition.

It came after Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state’s borders will be closed, most likely from midnight on Wednesday.

That move threw into doubt the NRL’s alternative plans to take all 16 teams to a central location in Queensland, or to continue to charter flights for travelling clubs all over Australia’s eastern states.

Queensland’s tighter border restrictions will impact those returning from holiday as well as interstate travel, which will directly affect the NRL’s ability to hold games in the state.

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