'It's armageddon': NRL clubs 'at war' amid financial crisis

Pictured here, NRL experts James Hooper and Paul Kent discussing the game's financial crisis.
NRL experts James Hooper and Paul Kent are worried about a war between clubs escalating over finances. Pic: Fox Sports

Rugby League experts are fearing a 'Super League type war' as clubs fight to navigate their way through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following Monday's decision to suspend the NRL season and with no definitive return date in sight, discussions have quickly turned to how each and every club will be able to cope with the financial devastation of the crisis.

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Clubs have been told the NRL has a $153 million dollar war chest to distribute, with each club guaranteed to receive their next three monthly $1.2 million payments until June 1.

What happens after that is where things get messy.

The NRL has detailed a number of different scenarios around when the season may resume, however, it's understood if that doesn't happen before September 1 then the season will have to be abandoned.

Suffice to say, the financial implications of such a situation would be catastrophic, with fears a number of clubs simply won't be able to survive.

The NRL currently operates under a funding scheme whereby money is distributed evenly amongst the 16 clubs.

As reported by Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Kent, however, NRL chief financial officer Tony Crawford has proposed that the $153 million be distributed according to the individual needs of the club, effectively giving greater funding to those teams struggling the most.

‘The clubs are in dispute with each other’

Kent says some of the more successful clubs are strongly opposed to the idea of this model and have reportedly threatened to take "the NRL to court over it".

“When Tony Crawford put this model to the clubs that they would basically be bailing them out with funding and that they would be meeting different costs that the clubs are going through, some clubs said there’s no way we’re standing for that, it’s an equal funding model and that’s what we’ll be insisting upon,” Kent said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.

“They’re presenting this unified front that we’re all in this together, but the clubs are in dispute with each other over funding.

“The clubs are fighting, that’s the issue. If they can’t resolve that, we’re in a bit of trouble.”

Chief NRL writer James Hooper called the situation "chaotic" and said "it's armageddon out there at the moment," with regards to the financial uncertainty.

Fellow Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Crawley urged the clubs to stop the bickering and says the game needs to unite for the good of its future.

“What the game doesn’t need right now is a Super League type war. Everyone has to pull together,” Crawley said on NRL 360.

“We can’t afford to lose clubs like Manly and Cronulla and Gold Coast … You have to help everybody out.”

Rabbitohs chief wants to ‘recalibrate’ NRL funding

South Sydney football boss Shane Richardson hopes the NRL's postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic forces the league to recalibrate funding, saying it is currently "not a workable business model".

Richardson said clubs and players were paid too much and that the NRL would need to cut funding by "at least 25 per cent" across the board to ensure the sport's future in the next 18 months.

Richardson spoke out after an emergency meeting with all 16 club bosses on Tuesday with ARLC chairman Peter V'landys to discuss the fallout over the decision to postpone the 2020 season due to the health crisis.

Richardson was hopeful the season would resume after clubs were told of possible start dates at the beginning of June, July and August and as late as September 1, with a possible grand final just before Christmas.

But Richardson hoped the powers that be used the postponement to reassess club funding going forward.

"What we have to do now is make some sensible decisions to recalibrate the game, how do we disperse the money and cut back the overheads and ridiculous money that has been spent over the last period of time," he told Fox League.

"We have a wonderful opportunity because of this to recalibrate players' wages, to recalibrate the way clubs are running which is not successful because like it or not .... four clubs only are making a profit now.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to take the game to the next level."


With agencies