Real reason behind Nine’s NRL bomb
The NRL and Channel 9 reportedly remain on the brink of war following the game's bold decision to restart the 2020 season on May 28.
Australian Rugby League Commission board member and head of the game's innovation committee Wayne Pearce announced on Thursday the NRL will hold the third round of the competition in just seven weeks.
The announcement came after a marathon meeting between Pearce's Project Apollo working group where the eight-member committee's recommendation for the season to resume in May was rubber stamped by ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.
However, plans to lock in more concrete details about what the season will look like were derailed on Thursday morning when Channel 9 launched an extraordinary attack on the game and chief executive Todd Greenberg.
Nine News reported the Nine Network is "seething" about being left out of the decision-making process and privately wants to renegotiate its $625 million broadcast deal with the NRL which runs through to the end of the 2022 season.
The network's fury towards the NRL was confirmed in a statement that also attacked the NRL for "squandering" millions of dollars with a "bloated" head office.
It was reported on Thursday Nine's savage swipe forced the NRL to consider abandoning the recommendations of the innovations committee for the 2020 season to be staged as a 15-round competition.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the NRL was considering trying to push ahead with a full 24-game home and away season with a full four-week finals series, in order to appease Channel 9.
However, The Daily Telegraph has revealed the real reason for Nine's blow-up - reporting the network wants the NRL to abandon the 2020 season - allowing the broadcaster to hold onto the majority of its $125 million per-season TV deal with the NRL.
Channel 9 earlier this month announced to investors it could save $130 million by walking away from the NRL in 2020.
"Insiders claim the network wants less footy and therefore less financial outlay," The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie reported.
Nine reportedly claims NRL games played in empty stadiums are of less value to the free-to-air broadcaster and wants to renegotiate a cheaper deal.
Nine's deal with the NRL makes up $625 of the game's record $1.8 billion broadcast deal.
The move to satisfy Channel 9 would kill off the preliminary recommendations from the innovations committee, which had prepared two season plans to be submitted to the ARLC 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, where clubs would play seven rival teams twice, extending the season to 16 rounds, including the two rounds already played.
The May 28 return date would make the NRL the first major sport in the world to recommence a competition during the coronavirus pandemic.
State of Origin will also remain in a standard three-game format with one grand final in Sydney.
Players are expected to return to training in just three weeks, according to reports.
All 16 NRL coaches were involved in a phone hook up on Thursday where the proposed return date was clarified, along with the preferred competition structure to allow clubs to prepare.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who is on the NRL's innovations committee, told clubs they could expect to play the remaining 13 clubs (excluding those played in the first two rounds) as well as the potential for rivalry games to round out the season.
"That's obviously still to be determined but that's the likely structure going forward," Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold told Fox Sports.
"We're hoping that when the Warriors get out of isolation in Australia that teams can start training in early May, that's the intention."
Current border restrictions mean the Warriors would be required to quarantine for 14 days before they were able to train and join the 16-team competition.
- with AAP
Originally published as Real reason behind Nine's NRL bomb