Channel 9 wants NRL deal torn up
The grim reality facing rugby league this season has been laid bare by Channel 9 bosses in a meeting with the NRL this week.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, which is published by Nine, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo were told the code wouldn't be receiving its quarterly broadcast payment on April 1 after the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine wants the current five-year broadcast rights contract, which runs until 2022, torn up and isn't a fan of a proposal to run a 15-round season from September to December, the Herald reports.
The broadcaster doesn't believe rugby league will rate as well in spring and summer and is unenthused by having a direct competitor to its coverage of the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, which it also owns the rights for.
It's a huge blow as the NRL attempts to stay alive in unprecedented times.
Players have been asked to take a pay cut of up to 87 per cent as the league braces for the worst-case scenario of an abandoned season.
The Rugby League Players Association board were set to meet on Thursday night to discuss their response to the staggering pay cut after being handed the doomsday option on Wednesday.
Both the league and the players' union are then due to convene again on Friday, when it's hoped a deal will be finalised to give the game a clearer picture of its future.
The development follows advice from the NRL's pandemic expert this week that the 2020 season will be a complete wipe-out.
That scenario could leave several clubs in a dire financial position with questions raised over whether all 16 clubs would survive into 2021.
The 87 per cent cut would likely change if the competition starts earlier, but the parties are working on a worst-case scenario and are going backwards from there.
Any deal would likely come into effect until the end of this year's season, with players having already been paid 40 per cent of their annual salary.
A tiered system of player cuts remains the highest priority for both the NRL and RLPA, shielding minimum-wage players from having next to no income. Regardless, the pay cut would affect up to 500 NRL players and their families. Players will reportedly receive $3000 a month - whether they are Cameron Smith or a minimum wage roster member - if the season was abandoned.
Former Penrith great Greg Alexander admitted it would be a sobering reality check for players who just last week had been simply concentrating on footy.
"I think the players would have been expecting 50 per cent plus (cuts) … to have an 80 to 90 per cent cut, that means the players become like everyone else in society," he told Fox League.
"They will have to start ringing banks and saying 'I need some help'."
A leading sports lawyer has warned the NRL and their clubs face the prospect of sponsors walking away in droves during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sponsorship represents the second biggest form of revenue for each of the 16 clubs following NRL grants, and is worth millions in apparel, player partnerships and hospitality streams.
A working group has been set up by the NRL and clubs to combat the issue. But Brisbane-based sports lawyer Tim Fuller from Gadens warned sponsors would be within their rights to stop paying clubs, particularly if the 2020 competition does not resume.
It's understood the NRL's major sponsor Telstra is in discussions with a number of sporting codes in relation to the impacts of the virus on the regular season and the agreements they have in place.
Third-party player deals could also fall over if the game's stars are unable to fulfil their obligations.
- with AAP
Originally published as Channel 9 wants NRL deal torn up