ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys had a meeting with Channel 9 CEO Hugh Marks on Tuesday.
ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys had a meeting with Channel 9 CEO Hugh Marks on Tuesday.

NRL and Nine still at odds over game's return

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys and Channel 9 chief executive Hugh Marks have met on Tuesday afternoon in Sydney following a stunning war of words last week.

The Nine Network, the sole free-to-air broadcaster of NRL games, sensationally launched a public attack on the NRL in a statement that accused the game of "squandering" millions in broadcast revenue.

It was earlier revealed Channel 9 reportedly wants the NRL to abandon the 2020 season - allowing the broadcaster to hold onto the majority of its $125 million per-season TV deal with the NRL.

The outburst came after the NRL detailed it's planned return date of May 28, amid the coronavirus outbreak, but those consultations did not include the network.

But the two parties seem to be back on solid ground following a meeting between V'landys and Marks on Tuesday with the ARLC chairman walking out feeling confident about a return in 2020, despite the network not committing to the audacious plan and leaving plenty of water left to go under the bridge.

"Today Nine CEO Hugh Marks and I had a constructive and co-operative meeting about rugby league in 2020 and beyond. I am buoyed by Mr Marks' support of rugby league and his commitment to the game," V'landys said in his statement.

"The meeting provided us with the opportunity to outline our positions and discuss next steps to navigate this crisis.

"We are both focused on the long-term success of the game and while there is more work to do, I am optimistic we will find a way through this together.

"Our next meeting, where we will endeavour to construct a road map for the game this year, must include Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany."

On Tuesday veteran Daily Telegraph writer Phil "Buzz" Rothfield once again clipped the free-to-air broadcaster for the way they lambasted the NRL and their return plans.

"They're running this catchcry on their network, 'We're in this together,'" Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast. "All their personalities from Tracy Grimshaw and Peter Overton are saying, 'Let's all stick solid, we're going through tough times.'

"And then they have this almighty whack at the NRL last week.

"I agree the NRL has been mismanaged, but I thought it was inappropriate timing.

"I was also a bit disappointed that a Nine spokesman was quoted and no one was prepared to actually put their name to it.

"We're talking about an act of God here, aren't we; no one saw this (coronavirus) coming."

Rothfield also compared Nine's relationship with the NRL to that between the AFL and its free-to-air broadcast partner, Channel 7, before saying any issues Nine had with rugby league bosses should have been dealt with in private.

"The AFL has applied to the NAB bank for a $500 million loan. Are Channel 7 kicking them, their major broadcast partner?" Rothfield said.

"They (the AFL) are getting a lot more support from their partners and in times like this we do have to stick solid and, if you do want to criticise the NRL, do it behind closed doors.

"I just thought it was unnecessary."

Originally published as NRL and Nine still at odds over return