Paul White has declared his team will survive the COVID-19 pandemic despite slashing a litany of costs to save money.
Paul White has declared his team will survive the COVID-19 pandemic despite slashing a litany of costs to save money.

Footy boss declares Broncos will survive pandemic

Brisbane boss Paul White has declared the coronavirus pandemic will not kill off the NRL's flagship club despite the Broncos slashing costs to save their $52 million empire.

White on Tuesday backed the NRL's strict self-isolation protocols as the code's Project Apollo program eyes the May 28 premiership restart that will guarantee the Broncos' survival.

The COVID-19 crisis has decimated many NRL clubs, including the Broncos, who last month shed 22 staff from their $22 million payroll to help Queensland's sporting powerhouse stave-off the global health ordeal.

The Broncos are the NRL's richest club, posting a $3.3 million profit in February, just before the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic swept through rugby league.

While some NRL rivals will wage a bitter struggle for survival in the coming months, White insists the Broncos will remain viable as they prepare for regeneration in 2021.

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Brisbane are the NRL\s flagship club. Picture by Adam Head.
Brisbane are the NRL\s flagship club. Picture by Adam Head.

"Because we acted in advance of others, our club is in a good position and we will come out the other side strong," he said.

"We acted pretty early and took some tough decisions, particularly with our club and we are well placed.

"There is no threat to our survival as long as the game survives.

"For us to survive, we need 15 other clubs to survive.

"Our business model is predicated on playing games of rugby league.

"The concern I still have now is the game has to survive. In the fullness of time, our game will look different and needs to look different because there will be some tough decisions to be made in terms of restructures."

Broncos players did not train on Tuesday as they underwent internal meetings and briefings in relation to the NRL's self-isolation protocols.

The squad will resume training on Wednesday and White is fully supportive of the NRL's crackdown to ensure the code's 480 full-time players stay healthy.

The Broncos have had to slash a litany of costs. Picture by Adam Head.
The Broncos have had to slash a litany of costs. Picture by Adam Head.

"We gave the players a day to get their affairs in order and to understand fully the protocols. They will commence training (on Wednesday) and there is a lot of positivity around the game now," White said.

"People within the NRL, particularly Peter V'landys (ARLC chairman) and his team, they have done an exceptional job.

"The rules are what's necessary.

"When our game comes back into operation, it coincides with the opening of schools and the easing of some of those restrictions.

"The community has done a great job in flattening that curve and it was a really ambitious target that May 28 date.

"The game has never been more united knowing we have to get the game up and running.

"There's a lot to gain but a lot to lose if we don't get this right. There is a lot of hard work to do and we'll be doing it every day."

White has also appealed for the code to broker peace in the broadcast war as he left the door ajar in the race to succeed Todd Greenberg as NRL chief executive.

While V'landys is confident players will accept 80 per cent of their salaries for this season, he faces a more vexing issue - formalising deals with broadcasters that will safeguard the future of the NRL and its 16 clubs.

White is a contender to succeed Todd Greenberg. Picture by Annette Dew.
White is a contender to succeed Todd Greenberg. Picture by Annette Dew.

It is feared a 20-round campaign could see the NRL lose more than $60 million in TV revenue this season and until V'landys can thrash out definitive numbers with Channel 9 and Fox, NRL clubs are in financial limbo.

White lauded the leadership of V'landys but warned pressure is building on cash-strapped clubs as key stakeholders the NRL, Channel 9 and Fox look to find broadcasting common ground.

"We have worked as hard as any code to fulfil our obligations and I would hope our broadcast partners see that and enter negotiations to reach some finalisation in the next couple of weeks," the Broncos CEO said.

"They are tough negotiations and the broadcast partners (Nine and Fox) will have numbers in mind and have a deal they believe will be commensurate with the value we provide as a game.

"We will be fighting for the value that we believe is at stake.

"We have contracts locked in with those broadcast partners and they have been developed on the basis of playing 24 games of footy and three State of Origin games.

"The longer it remains outstanding, the more pressure it puts on everyone.

White has appealed for peace in the broadcast dispute. AAP Image/Darren England.
White has appealed for peace in the broadcast dispute. AAP Image/Darren England.

"As clubs, we don't know what our funding model is going to look like. The players have some surety over what their deals will look like, that was necessary, but we are really keen for these deals to be finalised in this restructured season.

"Peter V'landys and Andrew Abdo (interim NRL CEO) are leading the charge there and we would like to see it concluded sooner rather than later."

While Abdo was appointed interim CEO a fortnight ago, there is a push for Broncos boss White to formally be installed as Greenberg's successor.

White is off-contract at season's end and initially indicated his plan to walk away from the Broncos, although the COVID-19 crisis could convince him to stay for another term.

A former mining executive, White is highly-respected by his NRL club CEO cohorts and is keeping an open mind on the prospect of succeeding Greenberg.

"It (a push for him to be NRL CEO) drew a fair bit of public comment. I see I wasn't voted for down south (in NSW)," he said.

"To be honest, it's not a role I've ever coveted. My focus is very much on the Broncos. With where the club is at the moment, we're in the midst of a global pandemic, I want to leave the club in good shape and my focus is the Broncos.

"I've said to my chairman and board that I'll be here for as long as it takes to see us through the other side. To be honest, under Peter's leadership, he's appointed Andrew Abdo in an interim role, they are a long way from contemplating a recruitment process for a new CEO."

Asked if he would apply for the position, he said: "I don't think it's a job you apply for ... if someone thinks you are good enough to do it, someone reaches out to you. It's not something that demands a CV into someone's in tray. People have had a fair line of sight over me.

"I wouldn't put a firm timeline on anything. When I'm satisfied we are through this, I'll talk to the board. Now isn't the time for me to be thinking about what is next."

Originally published as Brisbane boss declares Broncos will survive pandemic



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