NRL boss Todd Greenberg says players may be asked to take a pay cut as the league grapples with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Todd Greenberg said a league-wide shutdown would be “catastrophic” for the NRL
- The NRL will play matches behind closed doors from round two
- Greenberg would not rule out paying reduced salaries to players, but said it would be an “extraordinary measure”
“The word catastrophic is not one that we use lightly,” Greenberg said on AM when asked about the impact a shutdown would have on the code.
“This will have significant financial and commercial implications, not just for the game and the centre as a governing body, but our clubs and more broadly as an industry.”
Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith called for the league to be suspended after playing in his side’s 18-4 victory over Manly Sea Eagles in front of 10,315 fans at Brookvale Oval on Sunday, saying the COVID-19 crisis was “bigger than rugby league.”
Greenberg said Smith “certainly had a point”.
“As you’d imagine, there are lots of voices in this issue,” he said.
“But we’ll always do what’s best for the players. You can rest assured that is at the forefront of our decision making.”
Players could be asked to take salary cuts
Greenberg said the prospect of not playing matches would have several knock-on effects, including on payment of players.
“We have a huge, fixed-cost base,” he said.
“There’s very, very few businesses that I know that can continue to get by when their fixed costs are higher than their revenues.
“We have a number of games we have to fulfil to provide content to our broadcasters, and the broadcasters pay us a fee for that.
“Clearly, if we don’t provide the content as scheduled, there are commercial impacts to that.
“That’s an issue we’re facing.”
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Greenberg said the league’s collective bargaining agreement allowed for players’ pay to be cut, but said that would be an “extraordinary measure”.
“We haven’t done that yet,” he said.
“We have got … provisions around what we would call material adverse change.
“That’s something that is available to us, but it would be an extraordinary measure.”
NRL still wants help from the Federal Government
In the meantime, Greenberg echoed the comments of ARLC chairman Peter V’landys in saying that the league would call on the Government to provide assistance.
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“Rugby league is an enormous industry providing enormous economic impact to our country,” he said.
“The principle, and I understand there will be public commentary against us on this, but the principle is that sport in this country … is a huge economic multiplier and we’re a part of the social fabric of this country.
“It’s really hard to put a figure on it [how much playing behind closed doors will cost the league] as the impact is very much unknown.
“We do have money put aside but … that will only last a very short amount of time in an issue like this.
“At the moment, what we’re facing is just playing in empty stadiums. If we move from playing in empty stadiums to no games … then that will only fast-track that problem for us.
“I think every sport will be facing very difficult economic circumstances, so a conversation with the Federal Government and the state governments is an option that we would like to take forward.
“At the moment, we’re doing everything we can to make sure our industry stays afloat.”
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney radio that: “The NRL is not high on the list at the moment.”
Greenberg said he had not had conversations with the league’s broadcast partners, Fox Sports and Channel 9, yet, but they had been “incredibly supportive”.