Gus opens up on ‘unacceptable’ Nine call

Phil Gould doesn’t believe the footy season will resume but has called on the NRL and its broadcast partners to work together to save rugby league.

The season was suspended after two rounds because of coronavirus but the league has since announced it hopes to resume on May 28. Gould, the Channel 9 commentator and former Penrith Panthers supremo, doesn’t believe we’ll see any more footy this year but maintains it’s still important for the NRL and TV networks to ensure the future of the game is secure.

Free-to-air broadcast partner Nine, which tips millions of dollars into NRL coffers each year along with Fox Sports, slammed the league in a blistering attack last week and Gould also accused head office of poor financial management.

In the wake of the attack, some have criticised Nine’s spray for being opportunistic and an attempt to give itself leverage in negotiating a better deal for itself if this season is altered.

Nine held crisis talks with Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys earlier this week and there is speculation the network is positioning itself into forcing the NRL to open talks on a possible extension of its current broadcast deal, which expires in 2022.

There have also been reports Nine wants the season scrapped completely because a shortened season played without crowds does not represent the product it has paid to televise.

Fox Sports, the NRL’s other broadcast partner, is reportedly keen for the season to get back underway and is meeting with Nine and the NRL today to discuss how many games will be played this season and how much the broadcasters will pay for them.

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Phil Gould doesn’t think we’ll see any more rugby league this year.Source:Getty Images

If the season is wiped out completely, as Gould predicts, Nine will reportedly save approximately $130 million. However, the former NSW Origin coach says nobody should be blamed for wanting to renegotiate their position during this unprecedented crisis, even if the prospect of no season is “unacceptable” to the NRL.

“Whatever money is invested in the game into the future has to be better managed than it was, the money has to be put aside for rainy days and the game needs to be able to support itself financially for a long period of time,” Gould said on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

“If that means a renegotiation of broadcast deals that is better for Channel 9, that is better for Foxtel, that is better for the consumer, then so be it. They’ll all take that opportunity to do it.

“The world is going through this at the moment, Businesses are renegotiating with banks, tenants are renegotiating with landlords. Everyone’s looking at a different economic environment than what we had just six weeks ago.

“So it’s only natural that people are going to renegotiate their position. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to hurt the game, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to screw the game, it just means that they need a new system going forward.

“This is what the broadcasters (Nine) are saying. The broadcasters are saying, ‘Well, let’s write this year off and plan how we’re going to survive through until next year’.

“That’s probably unacceptable to the NRL at the moment but it may well be reality down the track, that’s what it may be proven to do.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg (left) and ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys have a lot on their plate.Source:AAP

Gould said the renegotiation process may not matter if things return to normal and the NRL is able to accommodate a full season that runs deep into the year, but he’s pessimistic that will happen.

“If in two months’ time Peter V’landys has got the game back on TV and everything works and it goes through until the end of October or the middle of October and the broadcasters are happy to pay for that, happy days. I’m sure that’s what they’ll do,” Gould said,

“A lot of things have got to go right for that to happen and it would appear at this moment that is an unreasonable expectation.

“I can’t see that happening.”

V’landys has said the financial consequences would be “catastrophic” if the entire season was called off, because the game is running out of funds and needs the money from TV broadcasters to survive.

Gould said there’s no point buying in to outside hysteria about the situation the game is in because right now, V’landys and TV bosses are the most important figures and the NRL’s survival rests on their shoulders.

“Right from the start of this I’ve said let’s not cry over spilt milk … none of that conversation matters, it’s all just clatter,” Gould said.

“This is why Peter V’landys and the chiefs of the broadcasters need to be negotiating this, and they’re the right people to do it.

“They’re the ones that can save this game and then see this game sustainable into the future.”

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