Shock NRL scenario: Shift comp to country Queensland
The NRL will explore relocating the entire competition to Queensland in a last-ditch bid to save the game from a $500 million wipe out and extinction.
League officials were on Sunday night locked in emergency discussions in a desperate attempt to keep the 2020 premiership alive following the AFL's decision to suspend its season immediately amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus crisis has been moving so quickly that the NRL could simply be delaying the inevitable and be forced to shut down as early as Monday.
But as states around Australia ramped up lockdown guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, the NRL was considering shifting all 16 clubs to the small Queensland town of Calliope, near Gladstone.
A vacant mining accommodation facility has offered to house more than 500 players and officials in an isolated environment to keep the competition alive.
Without a government bailout, the NRL will become insolvent within months if it is forced to stop playing, with a lack of broadcast revenue to cost the code $13 million-a-week.
The NRL has estimated abandoning the entire season will cost the game $500 million and almost certainly kill it.
The NRL has so far refused to bow to public pressure to shut down the competition and ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys confirmed moving to Queensland was an option.
"I've been in talks with the government and our experts today and nothing has changed so we'll continue to play," he told The Courier-Mail.
"The AFL have got different circumstances. They've got teams throughout Australia where as we've only got them in three states. We can continue on without too much drama.
"Relocation is definitely an option and we are looking at that right at the moment.
"Gladstone is the one place we could go to but there are some logistic problems to overcome before we go through with it. But certainly relocating the players is on the table.
"The experts are saying we can go on at the moment, but things can change at any time."
The Victorian government Sunday announced the state was essentially entering a lockdown on non-essential services.
It is expected that NSW and Queensland governments will further ramp up lockdown guidelines this week, making it more difficult for the NRL to continue.
The Calliope scenario would take an enormous amount of work to pull off, with the region having to host eight games a week plus training commitments.
But Homeground Villages general manager Matt Jones said it was possible to make it happen.
"If the NRL need our support, we definitely have the infrastructure and capability to
help keep the competition going and games being played," he said.
"We have a 1392-room purpose-built village specifically developed to provide large scale accommodation support to the Gladstone region.
"Central Queensland is rugby league heartland. I am sure Gladstone and the region
will support the NRL in any way they can."
The NRL is expected to reassess the situation on Monday morning and provide another update on its position.
Originally published as Shock NRL scenario: Shift comp to country Queensland