'Years of mismanagement': Channel Nine turns on NRL in $1.8 billion broadside

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Sam Thaiday, Erin Molan and Jonathan Thurston during a Channel Nine broadcast. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Channel Nine has launched a stunning attack on the NRL, accusing the game’s administrators of “mismanagement of the code over many years.”

With the ARL Commission to decide on Thursday when and how it will resume the 2020 competition, the code’s long-time broadcast partners are reportedly fuming that they’ve been left out of the planning.

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The game’s administrators are expected to announce plans to recommence a shortened 15-round season as early as May 21, however Channel Nine are considering that a breach of contract.

Nine’s chief executive Hugh Marks has reportedly told the NRL they want to renegotiate the game’s $1.8 billion broadcast deal, launching an extraordinary broadside on the code.

On Thursday Channel Nine accused the NRL of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars they’d invested in the code through years of mismanagement.

“At Nine we had hoped to work with the NRL on a solution to the issues facing rugby league in 2020, brought on so starkly by COVID-19,” said a spokesperson for Nine on Thursday.

“But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years.

“Nine has invested hundreds of millions in this game over decades and we now find they have profoundly wasted those funds with very little to fall back on to support the clubs, the players and supporters.

“In the past the NRL have had problems and we’ve bailed them out many times including a $50m loan to support clubs when the last contract was signed.

“It would now appear that much of that has been squandered by a bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of the clubs, players and supporters.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg speaks to the media in Sydney. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The NRL currently has a five-year deal with Nine, Foxtel and Telstra, with about $1 billion reportedly going to Foxtel and $625m to Nine.

Earlier on Thursday, Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler said the broadcaster was ‘seething’ about being left out of revised plans.

“They have a major problem,” Weidler said of the NRL and CEO Todd Greenberg.

“The Nine Network have largely been left out of planning and discussions for season 2020. The view from Channel Nine right now is that they are seething about this.

“I can tell you that their view is that the 2020 season is now gone. The NRL appear to want to launch an alternative season even though it hasn’t really been discussed with Channel Nine.”

NRL gets backing of State Government

An innovative committee will present a number of proposals to the ARL Commission on Thursday, including temporarily relocating non-Sydney teams to the harbour city.

How long the likes of Brisbane, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Melbourne and the Warriors stay in Sydney depends on interstate travel restrictions.

It is understood some teams could be housed in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, while the Panthers Rugby League Academy is another option.

According to NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, the NRL is the tonic Australia needs to endure the deadly coronavirus.

Barilaro described watching rugby league as being fundamentally Australian, and it is important some sort of normality is achieved during the crisis.

“You measure risk versus the economic uplift, the social uplift, the mental wellbeing uplift,” Barilaro said on Fox League Live.

“And there's no doubt that the NRL is the tonic we need to get through this virus.”

with AAP