Nine goes nuclear in NRL war
Channel 9 has threatened to walk away from the NRL because of a stunning falling out over the league's plans to push ahead with a shortened 2020 season.
A Nine News report claims the long-term rugby league broadcaster is calling for heads to roll at the top of the NRL executive.
The report has been confirmed in a scathing statement from the Nine Network which claims the NRL has "squandered" millions of dollars poured into the game by its TV rights partners.
The broadcaster is reportedly fuming over the NRL's plans to press ahead with an improvised, 15-round season, beginning as early as May 21.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and chairman Peter V'landys are meeting on Thursday to rubber-stamp the brazen proposal from the Innovation Committee for the season to resume in six weeks, according to reports.
However, Channel 9 has now gone public with its fury that it hasn't been consulted in the ongoing discussions for the game to return.
It leaves the NRL's $1.8 billion broadcast deal hanging by a thread.
Nine reportedly wants to renegotiate the deal - which extends through to the end of the 2022 season.
It wants to renegotiate on the grounds that games played in empty stadiums during coronavirus restrictions in 2020 are not as valuable to TV networks.
Among the dirty laundry aired by Nine is a stunning accusation that NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has mismanaged the game - leaving the NRL with nothing to show for the record broadcast deals signed with Nine and Foxtel over the last 10 years.
Channel 9's Danny Weidler had earlier told Sky Sports Radio Greenberg was "on the nose" with senior NRL powerbrokers and was in a fight to save his job.
The former Canterbury Bulldogs boss is off contract at the end of the 2020 season.
"They have a major problem," Weidler reported on Nine News today.
"The Nine Network have largely been left out of planning and discussions for season 2020. The view from Channel 9 right now is that they are seething about this.
"I can tell you that their view is that the 2020 season is now gone. The NRL appear to want to launch an alternative season even though it hasn't really been discussed with Channel 9."
The Nine Network statement also accuses the NRL of operating with a "bloated head office" that is driving the code into the ground.
"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," the statement claimed
"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.
"We find ourselves with a contract that is unfulfilled by the code. We hoped we could talk through a long term plan."
Weidler said Nine's public powerplay is a clear attack on Greenberg.
"They are fighting words. They're very strong words and they are pointed at the CEO of the game, Todd Greenberg," he said.
"Now Greenberg has been under immense pressure for quite a while now to hold onto his job. When the broadcaster of the game issues a statement like that, I can't see Todd Greenberg surviving that."
Meanwhile, The Innovation Committee, overseeing the game's Project Apollo season return plans, will present a number of proposals to the ARLC, 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.
The Courier-Mail revealed the Innovation Committee will present two plans to ARLC chairman V'landys on Thursday.
One plan calls for the 16 clubs to play each other once in a 15-round season before a finals series would take place.
The other proposal would carve the 16 clubs into two conferences, however, the report claims the NRL is confident it will not have to pull the trigger on the controversial "bubble" lockdown, allowing players to isolate at home with their families.
- with AAP
Originally published as Nine goes nuclear in NRL war