NRL fans’ extraordinary $37m gesture
Just 200 of rugby league's 285,000 members have sought refunds for 2020 - a gesture ensuring cash-strapped clubs can share in a vitally important $37m.
Rugby league has given 112-years of enjoyment and passion to fans - now supporters are returning the favour during the game's darkest moment.
Just 0.07 per cent of all NRL club members have asked for refunds - an extraordinary low number. Despite many facing financial hardship, members have taken back less than $5000 from all clubs.
Membership injects $37m into the clubs annually. South Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne secure $4m through membership packages with Parramatta and Newcastle bank around $3m.
Around a dozen Rabbitohs fans have actually contacted the club seeking to pay membership fees for 2021 and 2022. Incredibly, of their 19,039 members, just four Canberra fans have sought reimbursement.
Only 30 Souths fans want their money back from the club's 28,413 members and just 35 from Brisbane's 27,463 members. Thirty fans from Parramatta's 27,104 members are seeking to recoup their money.
There have been less than ten at Wests Tigers - they all cited financial difficulties - and just 25 at Canterbury.
A Sydney Roosters spokesperson said: "We've had only 20 inquiries about refunds or pausing payment plans due to financial hardship. On a daily basis, members are getting in touch with the club to commit to their membership for 2020, even if the season is shortened or cancelled."
The Roosters have even generated memberships from fans living overseas.
NRL club officials, led by Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta, have been discussing membership uniformity through regular phone hook-ups, the most recent being Wednesday.
Clubs are aware the amount of refunds could increase if the season was totally abandoned but, for now, members are sticking solid under duress.
Souths sent their 10,000 ticketed members a pledge to support their club even if the competition is ditched for 2020.
The pledge reads: "No matter what happens in the 2020 season you will stick with us and maintain your 2020 membership. By pledging your membership fee, you will ensure that we are able to remain viable as we navigate this challenging period and retain our rightful position as 'Pride of the League' as we march towards premiership number 22 once football returns."
Souths CEO Blake Solly said: "We had a thousand people pledge in the first hour, two thousand in the first day and over four thousand have pledged already. It went off the charts."
Canberra pulls $1.9m a year through membership - and the club's fans are remaining strong.
"In most other industries that don't have our passion and loyalty, the customer would ask for a refund. But rugby league means more to them than just a transaction," said Raiders CEO, Don Furner. "The members have been very, very supportive.
"If the competition does get cancelled then we will look at what we do but at the moment the members have all been really supportive. Less than a handful have asked for a refund."
Passionate Manly Sea Eagles member Martyn Penny won't be seeking a refund from his club, saying: "Our family always have and always will love Manly. This is a time when the club needs its fans and members. We won't be deserting them. I won't be seeking a membership refund but certainly understand those that do due to current hardships."
Broncos CEO Paul White was impressed with his club's supporters.
"We draw strength from the support of our members and the passion they share for the Broncos," he said. "On behalf of everyone at our club, I would like to thank you, our members, for your ongoing support."