Australia rugby league chief quits as virus crisis deepens

SYDNEY (AFP) – The head of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) stepped down with immediate effect yesterday, as the top-level competition continues to reel from the COVID-19 crisis.

The NRL said “it has been mutually agreed” that Chief Executive Officer Todd Greenberg (pic below) stepped down yesterday “after reflecting on the needs of the game”.

The cash-strapped league, which pitches itself as part of Australia’s social fabric, has floated a series of unsuccessful schemes to get play restarted quickly – including isolating players on an island.

After vowing to play on through the crisis, the season was suspended on March 24 after just two rounds as the government shut down all non-essential gatherings in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.

That has caused TV revenues to dry up and could threaten the existence of several teams and the financial viability of the league.

The NRL is planning to resume on May 28 but it is far from clear if that will be possible, with the government warning that travel restrictions and social distancing could remain in place for the foreseeable future.

As well as being a lucrative TV product, rugby league in Australia also fills newspaper columns with players’ soap-opera-style scandals.

“It has been my great honour and privilege to be the CEO of the NRL for the last four years. Despite the variety of challenges and pressures I have loved every single minute of the journey,” said Greenberg.

“I am very proud of my contribution to the game.”

The NRL appointed Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Abdo as an Acting Chief Executive “while a search is undertaken” for a replacement.