NRL announces suspension of 2020 season due to coronavirus pandemic

Australia World

Updated March 23, 2020 19:28:41

The NRL has suspended its 2020 season after two rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • The move came a day after the AFL suspended its season indefinitely
  • Chairman Peter V’Landys said the cancellation would cause a “financial crisis” for the NRL
  • Chief executive Todd Greenberg said the NRL would do its best to keep all 16 clubs alive

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’Landys said “due to the rapid rate of infection, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play”.

He said the NRL was unable to put a time frame on the suspension but it would continue to look for ways the season could recommence.

Chief executive Todd Greenberg said the NRL would not have made the decision “unless the conditions had shifted so dramatically and exponentially”.

“Today is a difficult day for the rugby league community, both here at head office and across all our clubs and players,” he said.

“Our priority is to do everything we can to give our game the best chance for a long and sustainable future.

“We have briefed all of our clubs this evening and all of our players have now been told.

“For now we’ve asked our players not to turn up to training tomorrow while we resolve the situation as best as we can.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The NRL’s decision came a day after the AFL suspended its season indefinitely.

It also follows similar moves by a host of other sporting bodies, from the professional level down to the grassroots.

Mr V’Landys said the cancellation would cause a “financial crisis” for the game.

It is believed as much as $13 million worth of broadcasting revenue could be lost for every round not played, or $500 million for the entire year.

However, the NRL is willing to play until as late as December 20 in an attempt to finish the season.

The league could manipulate the split and representative rounds to ensure the season is completed in those extra three months.

“It’s probably the biggest financial challenge the game will ever face in its history,” Mr V’Landys said.

“I can’t guarantee it will be in the same way [in the future] as it is at the moment.

“No-one can tell us how long it will last.

“In 24 hours it has changed dramatically. The next 24 hours it could change even further.”

Mr Greenberg said the NRL would do its best to keep all 16 clubs alive.

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

“We have some pretty tough decisions to make in the next few weeks.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

‘This is bigger than sport right now’

Before the announcement, Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist and senior lecturer in public health at La Trobe University, said continuing the competition would risky.

“This is bigger than sport right now, we’ve all got to make some really hard sacrifices for the benefit of the whole community,” Associate Professor Vally said.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“We should be avoiding all close contact.

“This is why the Prime Minister changed the rules; because people don’t realise we are on the cusp of something incredibly damaging to society if we don’t take this seriously.”

He said while the players wanted to keep playing, the infection of just one player would have made continuing the season impossible.

“Strict advice to stay more than 1.5 metres away from all people means we obviously shouldn’t be playing football, playing any sport,” he said.

“If we do the right thing now we can see an amazing pay off and save a lot of lives.”

ABC/AAP

Topics: infectious-diseases-other, respiratory-diseases, covid-19, sport, rugby-league, australia, gladstone-4680

First posted March 23, 2020 18:16:07

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