Date locked in after NRL meets with broadcasters
THE NRL's innovation committee - Project Apollo - has locked in May 28 as the day the 2020 season will return to action.
But there's plenty that needs to happen before that's a reality, with a longer season than previously expected on the cards.
Here are the latest updates.
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Broadcast partners Fox Sports and Channel 9 reached an agreement with the NRL after extensive meetings on Friday.
Early reports suggested the new NRL season will run for 17 weeks, but that is not yet confirmed.
Nine powerbrokers had been playing hard ball with the NRL over the scheduling of the 2020 season, which has already completed two rounds.
The broadcasters and Peter V'landys have agreed May 28 is starting date. The schedule will be confirmed after they know more about other sporting events, such as the T20 World Cup. Indicates it will run longer than 17 weeks but yet to be confirmed— Brent Read (@brentread_7) April 24, 2020
V'LANDYS FIRES BACK AT CHANNEL NINE
A fed-up Peter V'landys has vowed to sort out the 2020 season by the end of Friday after describing recent commentary around the game's attempt to return as "scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric".
The ARLC chairman, clearly frustrated by Channel Nine's statement describing a May 28 resumption date as "premature", said he was saving his "best punches to the end" in an interview with Today.
"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," V'landys said. .
"I think you'll find on the 28th of May we will start and we won't be a problem."
One of the main sticking points in broadcast negotiations between Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany and Nine boss Hugh Marks, apart from discussions about an extension, is the length of the this season.
Channel Nine would prefer a shorter competition in 2020 of about 17 weeks while Fox Sports want as many games as possible and would be happy for the competition to run into November.
"We have two different broadcasters - one has a different view to the other," V'landys said.
"Today is D-Day for me. A decision will be made as to the length of the season between the two broadcasters.
"We will meet our contractual obligation to the broadcasters but a decision has to be made. The procrastination has been taking long enough. A decision will be made 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 in NSW the infection rate has been less than 1 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 difference? The difference is that it is much safer now, and it'll be safer in five weeks than it ever has been ... I think people have got to stop using this alarmist language.
"We have done our negotiation with government, we are applying to governments and we will 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. Why shouldn't we start playing. Why are we going to rob our fans and players because of scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric?"
V'LANDYS SETS FRIDAY DEADLINE FOR NRL SEASON LENGTH
Peter V'landys has told Channel Nine he wants the NRL season length sorted by Friday and that it's time for procrastinating in talks with broadcasters to stop.
Just 12 hours after Nine fired another shot at the sport and said claims of a definite May 28 return were "premature", V'landys went on the network to launch an impassioned defence.
The ARL Commission chairman insisted the game could return, and backed biosecurity measures that will be handed to clubs on Friday. But he said he wanted the season structure sorted immediately, after almost two weeks of talks with Nine and Foxtel.
"We've got two different broadcasters. One has a different view to the other," V'landys told the Today Show on Friday.
"Today is D-Day for me. A decision will be made as to the length of the season, between the two broadcasters.
"We will meet our contractual obligations to the broadcasters, but a decision has to be made.
"I think the procrastination has been taking long enough, and decisions will be made today." It's believed Nine are pushing for a shorter season which would run at closer to 17 rounds, with each team playing each other once plus some rivalry games. Foxtel would likely prefer a longer season, which could run for up to 22 rounds before finals.
V'landys also shot down claims the game was not on track for its return, accusing any of the sport's detractors as "scaremongering".
Nine claimed on Thursday night it was premature to be confirming a return date, noting a structure still had to be locked in as well as health and safety standards.
The players' union are supportive but also want more answers around health and safety before committing to saying May 28 is a definite date. The game's return has also split public opinion, after the NSW Government said the sport could come back as long as it provided a safe workplace for players. V'landys has claimed the biosecurity rules placed around the game will be the benchmark for all sports during the pandemic.
He is also insistent players will be safer when placed under the new rules than they are now, with no players contracting the virus while the competition has been on hold.
"Look, we have done our negotiation with governments," V'landys said. "We are applying to 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?" V'landys also said the game planned on presenting the Queensland Government with a plan of their return on Friday, in a bid to have teams travel back and forth across the border.
That would save Gold Coast, Brisbane and North Queensland from all having to base themselves in NSW for the competition's return.
The Project Apollo committee are then due to reconvene next week, after their Friday meeting was postponed.
NRL CLAIM QLD GOVT DIDN'T WANT RETURN PLAN
Project Apollo committee member Troy Grant claims the Queensland government told the NRL not to send it a detailed plan for the competition's resumption.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday urged the NRL to submit details of its proposed return, claiming the state's chief medical officer was open to considering the league's position.
Given it's border are closed, Queensland's three teams will be forced to relocate to NSW with the NRL aiming for a May 28 restart.
Palaszczuk claimed the NRL had been working only with the NSW government and said she wanted to see the health measures that would be implemented. But Grant, a former NSW deputy premier, claimed he had personally made contact with the Queensland government and was told not to submit any report.
"I'm a little confused," he told Wide World of Sports Radio.
"I know what the truth is because I rang and spoke to a Queensland government representative who is on their response committee, and I asked the question.
"That person went and asked the Premier and others ... And during a Project Apollo meeting I got the phone call that said do not send us anything.
"So we honoured that. We understood they had a lot on their plate.
"To suddenly say we have not received anything, that is because she told us not to send anything."
The NRL is hopeful border restrictions could ease by the time the game returns, with the coronavirus infection rate dropping across the country.
Palaszczuk previously stated her position that the NRL should not return unless there was health advice that said it was OK to do so.
Earlier this week she said she was open to State of Origin match being played in Brisbane later in the year, depending on the COVID-19 situation in the state. On Thursday, she said she wanted to hear from the NRL on how they could work together.
"There is no detailed plan -- I call on the NRL to submit that detailed plan and I will immediately forward it to (Queensland's Chief Medical Officer) Dr (Jeannette) Young for her consideration and to report back to me," Palaszczuk said.
"I'm saying to NRL -- send the detailed plan, send all of your health information, send how it's all going to work.
"There are some Queensland teams here so let's see what can happen."
22 WEEK SEASON ON THE CARDS
The 2020 NRL season could run longer than first expected, with broadcasters set to negotiate for between 17 and 22 weeks when talks resume on Friday.
Channel Nine's erratic approach to the resumption of the NRL season continued on Thursday night when it appeared to question the planned May 28 restart.
However, sources confirmed to Foxsports.com.au that chief executive Hugh Marks was still supportive of the restart despite reporters on his own network suggesting there was fresh reluctance towards the May 28 date.
Nine is believed to be pushing for a 17-week season, while Fox Sports will suggest a 22-week season from May 28, inclusive of the two weeks already played before the Coronavirus epidemic stopped play.
Executives from both broadcasters are expected to reach an agreement with league boss Peter V'Landys when talks resume on Friday.
FED GOVT TO LOOK 'FAVOURABLY' ON WARRIORS
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the federal government is open to granting the Warriors an exemption from the Australian Border Force to arrive in Australia to participate in the resumption of the NRL competition.
Morrison has been in dialogue with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about relaxing travelling restrictions for those across the Tasman.
"Now if there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
"We have similar trajectories, their restrictions have been far greater. Our (coronavirus) case response has been the same, if not better, than New Zealand."
Morrison pointed out that the Border Force commissioner has already granted exemptions for some international travellers to enter the country. The Warriors are likely to be next.
"That is an area that I think we can look potentially favourably on, provided all the other arrangements are in place regarding public safety," Morrison said.