The COVID-19 outbreak has become a serious issue for the NRL ahead of the Cowboys-Broncos blockbuster, while a bush footy match has already been postponed.
The COVID-19 outbreak has become a serious issue for the NRL ahead of the Cowboys-Broncos blockbuster, while a bush footy match has already been postponed.

Coronavirus: NRL will lock out fans from Round 2

Both of Friday's NRL matches has been given the green-light by the NRL despite the government declaring a ban of all non-essential events of more than 500 people from Monday.

The NRL confirmed that the Raiders-Titans match in Canberra and the Cowboys-Broncos match in Townsville will proceed as usual, with fans permitted to attend.

However, the league will play behind closed doors in Round 2 as the league grapples with the global pandemic.

"We've listened to the authorities who are in a far better position than we are," said NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.

"If the government gave us advice today to close the stadiums down we would have. The measures they're putting together are precautionary measures.

"It's going to have significant financial impacts on all 16 clubs and the game.

"We're in unprecedented times. If they're in financial difficulty we'll keep them afloat. We'll get through this together.

"All 16 clubs are in the same position and listening to the same advice and getting into an alignment for this weekend's games.

"If players are presenting with flu-like symptoms, we want all players tested. The priority is around those athletes and making sure they're not affected.

"We're going to have to do specific work with the Warriors given their travel. Concern is about their athletes. There's an individual plan for the Warriors & we're working with them on that.

"Ultimately, if one of our players does get that and it means a club can't play a game, we'll deal with those situations. If that means we make games up or change the draw, we'll do that."

The Bulldogs, Dragons and Tigers have already declared they will comply with the ban and play behind closed doors mext week, with other clubs expected to follow.

Meanwhile, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has begun investigating financial aid to NRL clubs with the governing body set to fund a $10 million-plus rescue package in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The Courier-Mail can reveal V'landys has ordered a probe into the financial requirements of the 16 teams in the event a full-scale lockout of crowds has an impact on their revenue streams.

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The coronavirus outbreak could result in lockouts for NRL games. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
The coronavirus outbreak could result in lockouts for NRL games. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

The aid package has emerged as V'landys also confirmed the NRL are eagerly awaiting advice from a meeting of Federal and State Governments currently being held on Friday before making any decision about the potential lockout of games or suspension of the competition.

The NRL will comply with any directives from the government about whether fans will be locked out of the competition.

"It's changed so dramatically over the past 24-hours and some of these decisions are not in our hands,'' V'landys said.

"Once we receive the advice from the government this afternoon we'll advise of the next step.''

Several sports have already taken strict measures with the NBA in America suspending its season following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now the issue is becoming serious for the NRL, which is in talks with government authorities this morning which could lead to immediate lockouts - including tonight's Broncos-Cowboys derby at the new North Queensland Stadium.

The prospect of a lockout in Townsville would be disastrous given the Cowboys are set to celebrate the opening of their new $293 million stadium tonight against their Queensland arch rivals.

NRL chief executives are bracing for full-scale lockouts from round two with V'landys today confirming the ARLC will look at financial aid if clubs are forced to turn away fans.

"The commission's main focus is making sure the clubs are financially sound and what we have to do to make that happen," he said.

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"We are victims of circumstances here and naturally we want to keep the 16 NRL clubs financially whole.

"My efforts have been to look at how we do that with the funds we have available.

"Our management team has been working on the different financial scenarios and the implications for the NRL clubs of this coronavirus."

V'landys refused to speculate on a funding figure but club sources have told The Courier-Mail a lockout would come at a cost of at least $500,000 for home games.

Fan lockouts would be costly for clubs. Picture: AAP
Fan lockouts would be costly for clubs. Picture: AAP



The Broncos' round-two clash against Souths, tipped to attract in excess of 30,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium next week, could see Brisbane haemorraghe between $800,000 to $1 million in gate receipts, merchandise and corporate sales.

A $500,000 injection to the clubs would cost the NRL around $8 million, but that figure could easily exceed $10 million if lockouts occur for more than a fortnight.

V'landys said the ARLC is concerned about the effect the coronavirus saga could have on the bottom line of NRL clubs.

"We are looking at financial aid right now and we will call on special means from the Commission if required," he said.

"I am looking at financial grants to clubs to ensure their viability and make sure they meet their obligations.

"We don't know the exact amount, that's part of our analysis and what each club requires, but it will be significant given all clubs would require assistance."




A rugby league game slated for regional NSW this weekend has been postposed after one of the players involved had to be tested for coronavirus.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the player, who has undergone precautionary testing, is part of a side competing in the 2020 Women's Country Championship competition.

The decision to postpone the game, which was supposed to take place in Coffs Harbour, comes as the NRL is also in discussions about banning fans from attending all events.

It also now appears there could be far wider implications for rugby league competitions across the country at grassroots level, with many junior and senior league competitions already playing trial games in both NSW and Queensland.

It is understood the women's match has been postponed after one of the participants reported for coronavirus testing this week.

The player, who will not have her results until the end of the weekend, was sent for testing given she attends the same university as someone who has tested positive.

The NSWRL is currently working closely with both governments and NRL chief medical officer Dr Paul Bloomfield on the issue.

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