ARLC chairman Peter V’landys last week told The Sun-Herald that he is open to the prospect of selling an equity share in the NRL, declaring it would be “negligent” not to consider all options as the game battles for survival.
“We would entertain anything that is for the benefit of the game,’’ V’landys said. “If there is benefit to the game, absolutely we would look at it … with our current financial situation, we would be negligent if we didn’t look at any option like that.”
V’landys said he would never relinquish a controlling interest in the NRL, but a minority stake could be up for grabs.
“It brings a lot of up-front capital, it brings in a lot of money you wouldn’t have,” he said. “We need to look at all aspects to financially assist the game.”
While the NRL has earmarked May 28 as the restart date for the competition, some sceptics in club land feel the date is overly ambitious and is unlikely to happen. The governing body is doing everything possible to restart play as soon as possible given broadcasters Fox and Nine – the publishers of this masthead – won’t pay another cent this year unless football is back on its screens.
If the premiership doesn’t restart in 2020, the NRL will be left with just $20 million in the bank by Christmas, not enough money to meet its financial obligations.
Kline, a former NFL draftee, has previously lived in Australia and has other connections with the country, as friends with “coach whisperer” Bradley Charles Stubbs and Colin Scotts. Former St Louis Rams defensive tackle Scotts, the first Australian to receive an American football scholarship, said the coronavirus outbreak would prompt a timely “reset” for Australian football codes.
“Australian sport has been living beyond its means and this virus has been a wake-up call,” Scotts said. “Our market is saturated with football codes and the virus is a real circuit breaker.
“We can learn a lot from the United States; they have systems that work. Why wouldn’t you want to look at options right now at a time when we could lose some sports forever? That’s not to say America has all the answers, they are operating in a much bigger market that isn’t diluted with four football codes.
“You have to look at private ownership, there is massive potential for American money and expertise to come down here.
“I’ve known Andrew for 20 years, he’s passionate about Australian sports and he knows high-end people who have interest in our market. I couldn’t recommend anybody any higher when it comes to networks and connections. Right now, that’s a good option to look at.
“Perhaps it’s time to reach out to these groups to accelerate the rescue of our iconic sports.”
Tuesday’s ARLC meeting will be significant for other reasons. V’landys’ discussions with broadcasters will largely dictate the structure of a restarted competition, with the chairman outlining the options to the board for approval. That will allow the Project Apollo taskforce to put together an action plan to recommence the premiership.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.