The NRL has suspended the 2020 season due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The league also announced it will close its offices from Tuesday until at least May 1, forcing hundreds of staff across all departments to take annual leave.
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NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and ALRC chairman Peter V’landys appeared in a joint press conference on Monday evening to officially announce the suspension of the season.
“Our pandemic expert and our biosecurity expert has said due to the rapid rate of infection, that we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play,” V’landys said.
“That’s the paramount consideration in all our decision-making, is the safety and health of our players.
“Accordingly, we are suspending the season.”
NRL season suspended.— Paddy Sweeney (@SweeneyPaddy9) March 23, 2020
“Rugby League will always survive in one way, I can’t guarantee it will be in the same way as now.”
Peter V’landys - @NRL commissioner
In a town hall meeting on Monday, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told staff the game was determined to keep playing in the face of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Monday morning that the northern state’s borders would be closed in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
As cases soared across the country over the weekend, multiple closures of state borders eventually forced the AFL to suspend their season until at least May 31.
NRL head office closed, staff told to take annual leave
On Monday afternoon, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that more than 200 NRL staff had been asked to take annual leave until May 1, putting the short-term future of the code in doubt.
NRL CEO Todd Grennberg told staff annual leave was required as a cost-cutting measure, however staff have reportedly been assured they will be paid through to May 1.
The SMH said the decision to shutter the league’s Moore Park offices would affect roughly 200 staff.
Closing down the NRL offices and forcing employees to take leave are the latest cost-cutting manoeuvres from executives, who are desperately fighting to keep the game alive under "catastrophic" financial pressure.
It is understood Greenberg told employees it was all he could do to protect their livelihoods as the game edges closer to suspension of competition.
NRL players, fans react to coronavirus bombshell
Fans, players and pundits alike were left heartbroken by the decision to suspend the season.
Appearing on Fox Sports, former Brisbane Broncos player Corey Parker said ‘everyone who has their hand in the game of rugby league will be affected’.
“It makes you feel sick in the stomach,” he said on NRL Tonight.
“I’ve got friends already informed that their services will no longer be required. It cuts deep.”
Fans flocked to social media to express their sadness over the decision as well.
I’m devastated that the #NRL has been cancelled. I get it and understand it but I hate it. It’s necessary but unfortunate. I live for the game. It’s my passion. I don’t care who plays, I watch it. I just love the game. I’ll be here when it comes back.— Rachel (@rarticalsista) March 23, 2020
Gutted... credit to the @NRL for fighting as long as they could. We'll see some unwanted changes to Rugby League over the next few months, but it's a resilient sport and we'll survive. Nothing will kill the greatest game of all #NRL— Simon Masterton (@OiSimmo) March 23, 2020
Thank you Peter V’landys & @Todd_Greenberg for fighting so hard to keep the @NRL season going. The game will be back. Stay safe everyone, listen to the authorities, wash your hands regularly. We can stop the spread & move on from this @NRLonNine #KeepYourDistance #SlowTheSpread— Peter Psaltis (@peterp79) March 23, 2020
I suspect there will only be about 8 #NRL teams remaining when the NRL returns in 2021. I'm hoping dearly that my beloved @NRLKnights are amongst them.— Nick Milligan (@NickMilligan_) March 23, 2020
Now is the time to buy a piece of merch from your team. Might help keep them alive or become a bona fide collector's item.