NRL responds after Channel 9’s ‘bombshell’ statement on season return plans
The NRL has fired a shot of its own after Channel 9 issued a second damning statement this month that questioned the code’s future.
The NRL has responded after Channel 9 stuck the boot into the league for the second time this month in a fresh new statement that questioned the game’s plans for a May 28 season re-start.
Just one day after NRL innovations committee spokesman Wayne Pearce declared that a fresh round of discussions with broadcasters had given the NRL further fuel to push for a season re-start next month, Nine slapped down the proposed plan.
In a statement released on Thursday night the Nine Network said it was “premature” for the league to push ahead with a season re-start when it claims no broadcast deal is in place for the 2020 season.
Channel 9 rugby league reporter Danny Weidler on Thursday night described Nine’s new attack as a “bombshell”.
However, on Friday morning Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys refuted suggestions there was anything “premature” about a May 28 resumption.
“Absolutely, 28th of May is our target date, always has been. This is like a boxing match, you take a few blows to the head, a few body blows, but you save your best punches to the end and I think you’ll find on the 28th of May we will start and we won’t be a problem,” V’landys told Karl Stefanovic on Today.
“Look at the data and the facts. Don’t look at emotion and scaremongering and emotional rhetoric. You’ve got to look at the facts and the facts are for the last 12 days here in NSW, the infection rate has been less than one per cent.
“When we suspended play on the last round, the infection rate was 25.5 per cent. The health experts then said we could play. So what is the big difference? The difference is that it’s much safer now and it will be safer in five weeks than it ever has been.”
Asked by Stefanovic if the NRL would forge ahead even if Nine and health experts said it was too soon, V’landys stuck to his guns.
“It’s not premature at all. As I said, it’s disappointing that people use scaremongering rhetoric when it’s not necessary. Look at the facts. I challenge them to tell us where it’s not safe,” V’landys said.
“As I said, we have looked at all the data, we have done enormous research, we’re going to put enormous biosecurity measures in place to protect our players. Our players will be safer under our system than they would be if they were in the community. And the proof is in the pudding.
“We’ve got 485 players, and just with the self-isolation, which is not as strict as the ones that are going to apply when we recommence, there hasn’t been one positive (test). I think people have got to stop using this alarmist language.
“We have done our negotiation with governments. We are applying to governments. We’ll continue to do so. It’s five weeks away. In the last 14 days, our infection rate has been less than one per cent.
“We are confident that it’s safe. The risk is minimal to zero. So why shouldn’t we start playing? Why are we going to rob our fans and players, because of scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric?”
Nine’s latest statement comes just a few weeks after the network launched a scathing attack on the NRL and former CEO Todd Greenberg where the broadcaster accused the NRL of “squandering” millions in broadcast revenue.
Greenberg stood down from his post earlier this week and V’landys said today is “D-Day” in terms of brokering a deal with broadcasters Nine and Foxtel to map out what a re-shaped season looks like for the game’s biggest stakeholders.
“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,” a Nine spokesman said on Thursday.
“There is a great will to work together to an outcome but a lot of work still to do. 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.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Channel 9 is still open to the season re-starting in May — but not while negotiations remain ongoing surrounding the reported three-year broadcast deal extension.
The existing deal expires at the end of the 2022 season.
Meanwhile, Players’ union chief Clint Newtown has warned the NRL return date could still change as his association’s athletes await further details around health measures.
Newton admitted he’d been left surprised by Pearce’s declaration on Wednesday that May 28 had been reaffirmed as the start date, with confirmation training would start on May 4.
“We’re going to keep working through it to get to those dates,” he said.
“We’ve got a level of responsibility that anyone who is associated with the Project Apollo that when we come out of those meetings is a true reflection on where we landed.
“There is no definite start date. They are dates we are working towards.
“And the players are very much standing shoulder to shoulder with the clubs and game on trying to resume.
Channel 9 Wide World Of Sports commentators Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler.Source:Getty Images
“But the reality is there are a number of hurdles that we still need to get over before players can resume training and start playing again.”
The Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) wants further assurance around whether the usual medical support will be available for any player who gets injured.
The NRL has vowed to work with the RLPA on this.
Privately, clubs have some apprehensions about the dates.
They will receive draft biosecurity guidelines on Friday and would then have just six business days to get their training bases ready.
There were some chief executives disappointed they weren’t given those measures in Wednesday’s telephone hook-up.
Some have already looked at purchasing forehead thermometers but it remains unclear if extra equipment will have to be purchased.
Clubs know they can’t ease into the process, with any potential health risks needing to be managed and the NRL set to police the matter.
— with AAP