The structure of a revised NRL competition is imminent after television broadcasters agreed to recognise May 28 as the optimal season restart date.
After a high-powered meeting on Friday, Channel Nine and Foxtel could not reach an agreement on the length of the NRL season, but confirmed the target date for Round 3.
On Friday evening, ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys confirmed to AAP that the NRL and broadcasters would finalise a competition structure early next week, as both parties want different outcomes.
“We confirmed the target date is the 28th of May,” he said.
“The meeting with the broadcasters was extremely positive and amicable. We need a little more time, but we definitely announce it early next week.”
After almost two weeks of negotiations with broadcasters, it was hoped a competition structure would be confirmed on Friday.
It’s understood the season will consist of more than 17 rounds, with Nine preferring a shorter season to avoid a clash with the T20 World Cup at the end of the year. However, Cricket Australia have indicated the fate of the tournament may not be known until August.
It’s believed funding for the 2020 NRL season is also yet to be sorted between broadcasters. That is a significant agreement to reach as clubs wait for confirmation of their grants – and players their wages – ahead of a return to training on May 4.
The acceptance of next month’s start date comes a day after Nine fired a shot at the NRL’s target start date, calling it “premature”, noting a structure still had to be locked in as well as health and safety standards.
The players’ union are supportive but also want more answers around health and safety before committing to May 28. The game’s return has also split public opinion, after the NSW Government said the sport could come back as long as it provided a safe workplace for players.
V’landys has claimed the biosecurity rules placed around the game will be the benchmark for all sports during the pandemic.
He is also insistent players will be safer when placed under the new rules than they are now, with no players contracting the virus while the competition has been on hold.
“Look, we have done our negotiation with governments,” V’landys told the Today Show on Friday morning.
“We are applying to governments. We’ll continue to do so.
“It’s five weeks away. In the last 14 days, our infection rate has been less than one per cent. We are confident that it’s safe.
“The risk is minimal to zero. So why shouldn’t we start playing? Why are we going to rob our fans and players, because of scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric?”
V’landys also intended to update the Queensland government with their plans in a bid to allow teams to travel back and forth across the border.
That would save the Gold Coast, Brisbane and North Queensland from all having to base themselves in NSW when the competition returned.