The NRL has succumbed to the global pandemic and suspended its season, with the A-League set to follow, as the AFL took the first steps towards laying off 80% of its staff.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said he was left with no choice but to shut it down after biosecurity and pandemic experts could no longer guarantee the safety of players.
“We are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season, be it in other areas or northern Queensland,” V’landys said after an emergency meeting on Monday night.
NRL players will be given Tuesday off and will remain in self-isolation.
“This decision hasn’t been taken lightly but we have a world-renowned pandemic expert and they are very concerned at the rate of this infection,” V’landys said.
“We will and always will consider the health of our players before anything else.”
Unlike the AFL on Sunday, the NRL have opted against putting a return date for play.
“We are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season,” V’landys said.
“Be it in other areas or northern Queensland. All the options are still on the table. We’ve left (the return date) open and will probably make some announcements in the future.”
It’s believed as much as $13 million could be lost from broadcasters for every round not played, or $500 million for the entire year.
The AFL, which shut down its season on Sunday, has moved quickly to contact clubs and ensure a tight rein on spending, while the NRL also closed its head office and reduced staff at a tense meeting ahead of its shutdown.
The NRL had just completed Round 2, but border closures and the ongoing issue with Auckland’s Warriors made it too difficult to continue.
It comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state’s borders will be closed, most likely from midnight on Wednesday.
That move exploded the NRL’s alternative plans to take all 16 teams to a central location in Queensland, or to continue to charter flights for travelling clubs all over Australia’s eastern states.
In the A-League, FFA chief executive James Johnson is expected to announce the league’s suspension at a media conference on Tuesday, following a day of crisis talks.
The FFA had originally aimed to quickly wrap up the season through a condensed fixture list that involved games being rescheduled.
In Melbourne, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said his executives would take a 20% paycut, while clubs would compile lists of staff to remain on deck until the hoped for resumption of the season after May 31.
“I do understand the impact these steps will have on the lives of our entire team. Our priority now is ensuring all our people stay safe and healthy,” McLachlan said.
The chief executive of AFL’s Brisbane Lions, Greg Swann, said in a statement much work lay ahead to ensure his club can survive.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure the club’s financial stability and there will need to be some really tough decisions made, but we’re committed to ensuring that your club still exists in six months’ time, in a year’s time and in 50 years’ time,” Swann said.
“In order to do that, we will be implementing a series of significant measures … not least [affecting] our loyal and hard-working staff and players.
“Their wellbeing as we work through this is paramount and we will support them through whatever lies ahead.”
It is expected most clubs will lay off up to 75 per cent of staff, with a mixture of accrued leave and leave without pay.
Rugby union on Monday became the latest Australian sport to postpone a competition, abandoning its plan for a domestic competition featuring the four Australian Super Rugby teams plus Western Force.
It will now be put off until May 1 at the earliest.
Super Netball is also kicking the can down the road, with the 2020 season that was due to start on May 2 being deferred until at least June 30.
Separately, Netball Australia has determined that the Australian Netball League season will also be delayed and will also not start before June 30.
Netball Australia is also working with the nations involved in the 2020 Quad Series and Constellation Cup to determine what happens in relation to those matches due to take place in September and October respectively.
Racing Victoria has decided that it will continue to race behind closed gates.