'Clubs won't survive' as NRL faces $500 million disaster

Rugby league great Phil Gould has warned he can't see all 16 NRL clubs surviving the suspended season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All 16 clubs have woken to a new reality on Tuesday, with no football in the foreseeable future and a significant hit to their bottom line.

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Several clubs made moves to stand down staff or place them on annual leave on Monday night, with no-one safe as the clubs searched for ways to save money.

The impact of the coronavirus on clubs who have previously walked the financial tightrope in the past could be dire.

Manly players look on during their clash with the Melbourne Storm. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Without games being played, there will be no gate takings, corporate boxes sold and a significant dip in merchandise sales.

Nine separate clubs also have links to leagues' clubs, which were indefinitely closed from Monday due to new laws aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

Sponsorships could also take a hit without games being played and a number of businesses doing it tough, while the NRL's losses could also impact on grants.

Gould can’t see all 16 clubs surviving

And Gould, who most recently filled a role as general manager at Penrith, admitted he feared for several clubs' futures.

“I can't see every club surviving,” Gould told Nine's 100% Footy.

“If this competition doesn't get back on the field this year, and there is no broadcast income coming into the game, I don't know how clubs are going to survive.

“Unless the criteria is so small next year to come into the competition, that they somehow find themselves in it.

“It depends what the funding arrangements are going forward. What the competition and salary cap looks like going forward.”

Phil Gould looks on during a match between the Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels in 2019. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

And Gould isn’t sure the competition will be able to resume this year.

“We’ve got to go into our winter, all these other countries have had their winter where this has spread pretty quickly and you can see the results from overseas,” he said.

“But the question is what’s going to determine that you can resume playing? That we can come outdoors and start gathering in groups and people can go back to clubs.

“I can only think it’s a vaccine and there are no more dangers of spreading the infection. You reckon that’s going to happen in a month? No chance in the world.

“You reckon that’s going to happen in six months? No chance in the world.

“So we’re talking next year. And if the money stops between now and next year, clubs won’t survive. They will have to find another way to survive than in their own existence right now.”

One hope for clubs is that franchises take a one-in, all-in approach, with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart confident all teams wanted to fight the issue together.

Costs could also be cut by a reduction in the salary cap, while NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said all clubs had to find a way to reset the cost base.

Chairman Peter V'landys was also adamant the game would do its utmost to ensure all 16 clubs got through the issue together.

“We will do our best to keep all our clubs viable,” V'landys said at Monday's press conference.

“We're a family, a rugby league family. When one needs help, we will support them.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure every single one of our clubs remains viable and exists.

“We have some pretty tough decisions, but the main objective is to keep everyone within our game viable.”


The NRL had still hoped to push on with the competition until as late as Monday afternoon before being advised against it by a pandemic expert.

The growing number of cases in Australia sparked significant fears that the safety of players could no longer be guaranteed if they stayed on the field.

Queensland's effective closure of their border and concerns over the Warriors' ability to return home also played a part.


The suspension of the competition is indefinite but the NRL hope to have further details in the next two weeks.

Head office will continue to look into several options, including taking players to a city to play or conference systems in different states.

Players will stop training but be asked to stay in isolation to keep them healthy if a return date becomes available.


It's estimated the league could lose about $13 million for each round lost, while estimated figures are about $500 million if the season is wiped out.

V'landys admits that could be a catastrophic blow for the game and the NRL would be required to borrow money to survive the pandemic. The NRL told staff to take annual leave on Monday.


Yes. The NRL will meet players and their union during the next week to begin talking about cuts.

A clause exists in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that can see the salary cap dropped if the league loses revenue.

Several senior players on Monday said they would be willing to take pay cuts for the good of the game.


This could form one of the biggest challenges. V'landys and chief executive Todd Greenberg will do all in their power to help clubs but it will be a trying year.

Each club relies on grants of about $13 million from the NRL and that could be in doubt. Clubs will also lose significant sections of their income through gate takings and merchandise, while sponsorship could take a hit if games are lost or companies fall into their own financial trouble.

Several clubs have challenging financial situations and already rely on their leagues clubs but those are now also closed as a result of the virus.

With Yahoo Sports Staff