NRL clubs’ ‘dirty’ threat to Channel 9

NRL clubs could reportedly take the hostile step of urging fans and members not to watch Channel 9 should the game’s television rights feud reach breaking point.

As the NRL on Wednesday turned its attention to smoothing its relationship with pay TV partner Foxtel, a rumour emerged NRL clubs would follow the league’s head office into the trenches should the game’s relationship with Channel 9 continue to deteriorate.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys left his meeting with Nine chief executive Hugh Marks on Tuesday buoyed at their short and long-term future.

Nine reportedly remains committed to a long-term partnership with the NRL, despite reports the broadcaster is still pushing to have the entire 2020 season scrapped in a bid to retain the majority of its $125 million per-year broadcast rights deal with the game.

Nine’s reported push to renegotiate the rights deal for the 2020 season has further strained the fractured relationship between Channel 9 and the NRL — coming less than a week after the Nine Network released a statement that accused the NRL of “squandering” millions in broadcast revenue.

The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie on Wednesday reported at least some NRL clubs are prepared to join the fight against Nine, should the network shut down the proposal for the season to resume on May 28.

Channel 9 says it’s in for the long haul.Source:Getty Images

The NRL is yet to reveal what the 2020 season will look like beyond the return date — but the Project Apollo working group last week recommended two season structure plans.
One called for a 15-game season where the 16 clubs will play each other once during the home and away season.

The other called for the competition to be carved into two conferences where clubs will play seven teams twice — taking the season to 16 games, including the two rounds already played.

The season return is vital for the cash-strapped league and it’s clubs — who are reportedly prepared to fight dirty if Nine refuses to play ball.

“I’ve read a couple of stories and spoken to a couple of officials that say if it really gets down and dirty here — and we hope it doesn’t — (but) if it really gets in the gutter then they would be urging their members not to watch Channel 9,” Ritchie told Sky Sports Radio.

“Nine’s playing hard ball here guys. They’re believing that the money that they’ve outlaid for 2020, they won’t recoup it. They’re in financial troubles like a lot of other media companies.

“They’re trying to salvage what they can. But trying to hold the NRL to ransom and to effect to punish the crowds and the fans isn’t going to work. There’ll be a backlash here against Channel 9.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was reportedly left out of the meetings.Source:Getty Images

He said the dispute between Nine and the NRL over the 2020 season could end up in the courts.

V’landys on Tuesday said it was made clear that Nine is committed to the game, which has been reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of detail still to be sorted out. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot of hard work to go under the bridge,” V’landys said.

“But at least it’s done in good spirit and in good faith … He (Marks) put his position to me, I put my position to him. We’re not that far apart.

“We’re a little bit apart, and that’s what you do in negotiation and you try and get to the position where everyone’s happy with.

“We couldn’t have gotten more than what we did today out of the meeting.”

V’landys, Marks, and Foxtel boss Patrick Delany will sit down on Thursday. It is then that details of the re-jigged competition are expected to be thrashed out, while Nine is likely to raise the prospect of exclusively airing its fixtures.

V’landys insists the simulcast deal wasn’t brought up by Marks on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t part of the discussions because he knows that that’s a conversation he has to have with Fox, not with me,” he said.

The NRL will be desperate to finalise discussions as soon as possible as it attempts to resume its competition in late May.

— with AAP

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