NRL confirm return date for competition hours after Channel 9 backlash

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter
NRL's Project Apollo has set the return date for the competition as 28 May. (Getty Images)

NRL’s Project Apollo committee leader Wayne Pearce has confirmed the NRL has set a return day of 28 May, despite earlier backlash from long-time broadcasting partners Channel 9.

Pearce told reporters the return date has been set, but due to the changing circumstances every week the structure around the competition and how it will work are yet to be finalised.

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“I am pleased to announce that we are planning a competition start on May 28,” he told Channel 9 news.

“The details of the competition structure we haven’t got to that yet, because the landscape is changing very quickly as to the protocols around governments and government boundaries.

“That will feed into the complexity of the structure. So today was about confirming a starting date. We discussed possible competition structures, but we haven’t finalised what that looks like as yet.”

What will the restarted NRL season look like?

An innovative committee will present a number of proposals to the Commission, including temporarily relocating non-Sydney teams to the harbour city.

How long the likes of Brisbane, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Melbourne and the Warriors stay in Sydney depends on interstate travel restrictions.

It is understood some teams could be housed in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, while the Panthers Rugby League Academy is another option.

Channel 9 blasts NRL

The code’s long-time broadcast partners are reportedly fuming that they’ve been left out of the planning on when the season would restart.

The game’s administrators are expected to announce plans to recommence a shortened 15-round season as early as May 21, however Channel Nine are considering that a breach of contract.

Nine’s chief executive Hugh Marks has reportedly told the NRL they want to renegotiate the game’s $1.8 billion broadcast deal, launching an extraordinary broadside on the code.

On Thursday Channel Nine accused the NRL of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars they’d invested in the code through years of mismanagement.

“At Nine we had hoped to work with the NRL on a solution to the issues facing rugby league in 2020, brought on so starkly by COVID-19,” said a spokesperson for Nine on Thursday.

“But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years.

“Nine has invested hundreds of millions in this game over decades and we now find they have profoundly wasted those funds with very little to fall back on to support the clubs, the players and supporters.

“In the past the NRL have had problems and we’ve bailed them out many times including a $50m loan to support clubs when the last contract was signed.

“It would now appear that much of that has been squandered by a bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of the clubs, players and supporters.”

Earlier on Thursday, Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler said the broadcaster was ‘seething’ about being left out of revised plans.