NRL season suspended in midst of coronavirus pandemic

Peter V'Landys says NRL clubs will need to overhaul their expenditure in a bid to survive. Picture: NRL Imagery
Peter V'Landys says NRL clubs will need to overhaul their expenditure in a bid to survive. Picture: NRL Imagery

The decision to suspend the NRL season indefinitely is set to have a "catastrophic" impact on the code's bottom line as officials prepare to overhaul the game's expenditure.

The NRL season has been suspended indefinitely, with rugby league one of the final dominoes to fall as coronavirus wipes out sports around the globe.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'Landys confirmed the decision on Monday night, having previously remained open to continuing the competition behind closed doors.

The decision followed a consultation with club chief executives and the code's medical and biosecurity experts.

The NRL has not put a timeframe on any potential return to action with the fixture requiring a major revamp, and officials fear the COVID-19 crisis will have a devastating effect on the NRL's finances.

V'Landys will hunt for a government stimulus package to ensure the viability of all 16 clubs as he grapples with a cash flow shortage in the game.

"It's catastrophic. I don't think we have ever come across a financial crisis like this," V'Landys said.

"We're all affected. We've led by example by cutting our expenditure immediately, and we're hoping clubs will do the same very quickly. We'll sit down with the players over the next week to look at how they're affected.

"This is a financial crisis, you can't understate it. It's probably the biggest financial challenge the game will ever face in its history. United, we will deal with it and hopefully we will come out the other end.

"Rugby league will always survive in some way. I can't guarantee it will be in the same way it is at the moment. No one knows, no one can tell us how long this pandemic is going to last.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg. Picture: NRL Imagery

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg. Picture: NRL Imagery

"In 24 hours it changed dramatically. In the next 24 hours, it could even change even further. We're ready for the worst, and we've got to look at dealing with the worst.

"That's exactly what we will be doing in the next couple of weeks."

Pressure had been mounting on the NRL to follow rival codes and suspend play to help curb the virus' spread.

Officials had been keen to press on with the third round before medical advice took a "dramatic turn" amid revelations the safety of players could not be guaranteed.

An urgent meeting was called on Monday afternoon with the decision to suspend the competition allowing the New Zealand Warriors to return home.

V'Landys says the salary cap could be slashed next year, while a high number of staff at Rugby League Central have been told to take leave from Tuesday due to cost-cutting measures.

"This is a moment in time the game's cost base will need to be reset," Greenberg said.

"That cost base is across the entire sport, from players, clubs, central administration, everyone has a role to play in resetting the cost base.

"We've got scenarios where we might not start until much later in the season but we're still very confident of getting a season away.

"One thing we do know in our broader community, is things are likely to get worse before they get better."

This story NRL bracing for 'catastrophic' impact first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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