The NRL and the broadcasters still need to agree on the structure of the competition. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
NRL television broadcasters Channel Nine and Foxtel have agreed to recognise May 28 as the competition recommencement date following extensive meetings.
- The NRL has been pushing for a May 28 restart for several weeks, but needed to cross a few hurdles
- The structure of the competition and the length of the season remain a sticking point
- The clubs will start training on May 4, but are waiting for more detailed information on biosecurity measures
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 were all united on the 28th May start. But just the competition structure, we need a little more time — but we definitely announce it early next week,” he said.
The NRL has been pushing for weeks to get back to playing, putting it at odds with government and public health authorities.
The agreement between the competition and the broadcasters comes two days after ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce said the league had been given the green light by state and federal governments to restart after establishing a new set of health and biosecurity protocols.
The competition’s 16 clubs have been told they can restart training on May 4.
The NRL clubs had been expecting to receive an extensive biosecurity document by today detailing measures for returning to training, but have now been told they would get it over the weekend.
At 5:00pm on Friday, club chief executives were sent an email from head office confirming the measures would not be forwarded until the weekend.
The delay of details around biosecurity measures agreed to by the ARLC and Project Apollo — the committee set up to investigate the restart — adds to nervousness in club land.
They’re also sweating on updates about the competition structure and grants.
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One club boss told AAP that while optimistic about the competition restarting on May 28, there were concerns around the lack of specifics with competition points on the line.
The NRL has already warned any breach of health and safety measures will carry strict penalties, understood to include loss of competition points and fines.
The NRL is also looking at appointing an independent “spy” to make sure teams are abiding by protocols once training resumes.
Given the delay in receiving such strict guidelines, football departments will have just five business days to organise equipment and staff on limited budgets before the May 4 deadline.
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Many clubs have already stood down the majority of their staff, with many relying on government assistance through JobKeeper to pay employees.
It’s understood the new measures will include regular testing of players and staff, as well as an app to monitor their health and temperature.
The 2020 season was postponed after two rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AAP: Mark Evans)
While details are yet to be finalised, the NRL said the new protocols will be more stringent than government restrictions to ensure no player or staff is at risk of contracting coronavirus.
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Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) chief executive Clint Newton said earlier this week he wanted to see more details before May 28 “is considered a definitive date” for players to return to the field.
“These fundamental areas include assurances and protections relating to the health and safety of our members,” his statement read.
“The outstanding matters, such as confirmation that players will have access to the appropriate medical facilities and services should they be injured, are paramount before reaching a definitive return date.”
NRL.com has reported that negotiations were underway to hold the State of Origin series after the grand final, but that consultations were needed between the RLPA, states and the clubs.
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