Cash-strapped clubs turn up the heat on NRL

Club bosses have turned the screws on Rugby League Central after requesting that head office push their compensation commitment north of $100 million in a bid to stave off the horrific financial impact of COVID-19.

A select group of club bosses held talks with Andrew Abdo on Wednesday, where the NRL chief executive told clubs that the ARL Commission would guarantee their $1.1m club grant for the remaining five months of the rugby league season.

In all, it represented a commitment of close to $90m from the commission to the clubs at a time when players are receiving just over 50 per cent of their ­salaries.

These, however, are lean times in clubland. While player wages have been slashed, so too has their revenue as they confront a future without crowds, little corporate support and potentially without sponsors.

Throw in the loss of government revenue and the absence of Magic Round, which is a six-figure winner for the clubs, and you can understand the desire from chief executives to ensure they aren't being short-changed.

The game's 16 clubs held a phone hook-up on Thursday morning to discuss the proposal where it is understood they agreed that they would continue talks with a view to securing an additional $16m for the remainder of this season - about $200,000 per club for each month that remains.

In all, it would represent a commitment of $104m from the commission to the clubs.

The position of the clubs was relayed to Abdo on Thursday afternoon and is likely to be considered by the commission in coming days.

At one point during the talks, there was a push for clubs to bypass Abdo and deal directly with ARL chairman Peter V'landys, in much the same way the players were able to strike a deal that guaranteed their commitment to the code. However, it is understood the clubs felt that would have been disrespectful to Abdo, who stepped into the breach when Todd Greenberg left and is held in high regard at club level.



It is understood that as part of the talks on Wednesday night, selected club officials were told that the NRL is committed to slashing costs at head office.

Greenberg and chief commercial officer Tony Crawford are already gone and the NRL is believed to be committed to a further $40m of savings over the second half of the year.

However, attempts to cut costs haven't been helped by the push to have the season resume under extraordinary circumstances.

It is understood the clubs were told around $13m would be spent on getting the season underway - the game has been forced to cover the costs of flying the Warriors to Australia and setting up their base in Tamworth and then the NSW central coast; will be forced to supply private jets for interstate travel; and has hired experts such as associate professor David Heslop and a number of COVID-19 cops to monitor club behaviour.


The game can’t come back soon enough. Photo: Matrix Media Group
The game can’t come back soon enough. Photo: Matrix Media Group


The posturing between the clubs and head office comes as uncertainty continues on negotiations with the broadcasters - it is understood the clubs were given a series of financial estimates based on where the broadcasting deal could land. V'landys has already indicated he believes a deal could be struck by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the players continue to cast their gaze towards the game's return on May 28, when the season could resume with a blockbuster between Sydney Roosters and South Sydney.

The sides were due to meet only days after the season was shut down and Roosters captain Boyd Cordner can see no reason why the game shouldn't return the same way, pitting the Roosters against their former teammate Latrell Mitchell.

Originally published as Cash-strapped clubs turn up the heat on NRL