“To me, that is the most important aspect, to ensure the game stays viable. If you’re not viable, you’re nowhere. It’s critical we continue to get the revenues we’re getting.”
Now, less than six months later, the game is fighting to get just a portion of that.
It’s not exactly what V’landys had in mind when he outlined his plans for the 2023 broadcast cycle rights, but the reality of the situation will, on Tuesday, see the game’s chairman at Nine’s headquarters – the publisher of the Herald – for a 1.5-metre separation meeting with the network’s boss, Hugh Marks.
Marks doesn’t want to meet NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, who will instead head to Foxtel for a meeting with chief executive Patrick Delany.
Both broadcast partners want to use the coronavirus situation to renegotiate the deal and start again. The NRL is reluctant to do that because Smith’s deal has the governing body out in front. But the world has changed since V’landys’ declaration six months ago.
Nine was bullish in its attack on NRL management last week. Some have interpreted it as an attack on Greenberg.
What is known is that Nine has been irked by details of confidential meetings being reported in the media.
Perhaps V’landys got the hint. When the Herald contacted him to ask about Tuesday’s meeting, he said: “What happens between Hugh Marks and I stays between Hugh Marks and I.”
The general view of Nine’s attack on the NRL was that it was as calculated as it was brutal. But after weeks of waiting for the NRL to show its hand, Nine has now forced it.
Nine will want answers on a few key items. The first is an indication as to what V’landys intends to do about the NRL’s “bloated head office”.
Nine believes it is entitled to an opinion due to the money it puts into the game. And its opinion is that the game should not rush into a May 28 return just to cash in a pay cheque, but instead use the time to rejuvenate the game with fresh ideas for the long-term benefit of the code and its clubs.
That has been viewed as simply an attempt to get out of the current deal. But Nine does not want out altogether – the network actually wants to extend its deal, just for a different amount than what it’s paying.
The second thing Nine wants to know is what V’landys plans on asking of the broadcaster in the not-too-distant future.
“You have to look at all elements of our broadcast, what is exclusive, what is not exclusive, what buckets do we have?” V’landys said six months ago.
A statement he will now have to consider almost three years prematurely and for far less than what he would have been hoping in the next cycle.
The third thing Nine wants is to sit down with Fox Sports and discuss the current agreement. It wants to revisit the simulcast arrangement and find a solution that works for both parties. It wants a better season structure as part of a long-term deal.
But what Nine wants and what Nine gets could be two completely different things.
Sign up for our Coronavirus Update newsletter
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald