Rugby League

Nine wants footy season wiped out

The NRL could be looking at extending its broadcast deal with the Nine Network and Fox Sports following “constructive and co-operative” crisis talks on Tuesday, but a report has emerged saying Channel 9 may prefer this season to be scrapped altogether.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys left his meeting with Nine chief executive Hugh Marks buoyed at their short and long-term future. It remains unclear what a restructured season will look like and what broadcast revenue the NRL can expect to receive this season.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports during yesterday’s meeting, Nine “expressed its preference to wipe the 2020 season”. This follows revelations Nine would save approximately $130 million if the season did not go ahead.

It has also been previously reported Nine does not believe a shortened season with empty stands represents the product it paid top dollar for before coronavirus hit, so may prefer to save its cash and start fresh in 2021.

However V’landys said it was made clear that Nine is committed to the game, which has been reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of detail still to be sorted out. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot of hard work to go under the bridge,” V’landys told AAP on Tuesday afternoon.

“But at least it’s done in good spirit and in good faith … He (Marks) put his position to me, I put my position to him. We’re not that far apart.

“We’re a little bit apart, and that’s what you do in negotiation and you try and get to the position where everyone’s happy with.

“We couldn’t have gotten more than what we did today out of the meeting.”

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg is expected to meet with Fox Sports management, who tip in $200 million a year, today.

V’landys, Marks, and Foxtel boss Patrick Delany will sit down on Thursday. It is then that details of the re-jigged competition are expected to be thrashed out, while Nine is likely to raise the prospect of exclusively airing its fixtures.

V’landys insists the simulcast deal wasn’t brought up by Marks on Tuesday. “It wasn’t part of the discussions because he knows that that’s a conversation he has to have with Fox, not with me,” he said.

The best case scenario is footy back on the field in late May.Source:AAP

The NRL will be desperate to finalise discussions as soon as possible as it attempts to resume its competition in late May.

The league’s innovations committee is pencilled in to meet on Friday, however it could be postponed if the broadcasters fail to agree on a revised season.

Tuesday’s meeting comes days after Nine launched an extraordinary attack on the NRL, accusing the game of financial mismanagement.

Some suggested the tirade was an attempt to gain leverage in an attempt to extend Nine’s current broadcast deal worth an estimated $130 million a year. The contract is due to expire at the end of the 2022 season.

“Hugh made it very clear that Nine are committed to rugby league,” V’landys said.

“And the next step now is to get our other broadcast partner, Fox, and we’ll sit down and work out the way forward not only for this year, but for the future.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Nine commentator and former premiership-winning coach Phil Gould urged his employer and the league to discuss a long-term a plan.

“I have great confidence in the NRL chairman Peter V’landys and I think their meetings will be quite significant in the future of the game,” Gould said.

“They have to work out a long-term plan as well as what they do in the short- term, and I think they are the two best people to do it.”

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