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Top Five Stories Of 2020: Rugby League


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or the sixth part of the 2020 in review series, Ministry of Sport continues to highlight the top five stories from each major sport in 2020, this time looking at Rugby League.


The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the National Rugby League (NRL) announced the suspension of the 2020 season in March due to the spread of COVID-19.

ARLC chairman, Peter V’landys, said: “This is a dark day in our game’s history.”

85% of the NRL’s employees were then told to take leave until at least May 1.


Immediately following the NRL’s return to action, the ARLC, Foxtel, and Nine agreed to a new broadcast partnership, securing the current rights period until the end of 2022, with Foxtel extending until the end of 2027.

This deal came after months of back and forth between the broadcast partners and the NRL over public criticism of the NRL’s decision to return to action as early as May 28.


NRL CEO, Todd Greenberg, stood down following pressure as a result of the NRL 2020 season’s suspension due to COVID-19 and public scrutiny for the financial situation of the NRL, with the NRL’s broadcast partner, Channel Nine, claiming the NRL had poor management from the top level.

This led to the NRL’s chief commercial officer, Andrew Abdo, being named interim CEO, then full-time CEO.

Abdo was named CEO just as the NRL announced plans to cut $40-$50 million from operating costs in preparation of the league exploring the introduction of a second Brisbane-based club.


NRL head of partnerships, Jaymes Boland-Rudder, spoke with Ministry of Sport about the 2020 NRL season, revealing the biggest lesson the league learnt through COVID-19.

“If we were to do the season again, in hindsight, we question whether we would have stopped the season,” Boland-Rudder said.

Boland-Rudder also revealed the NRL’s commercial strategy heading into 2021 to Ministry of Sport, discussing how the growth of digital technology in the sporting industry will work to drive the NRL’s commercial activations.


The NRL’s May 28 return dominated headlines as it became the first Australian sport to return to action following the COVID-19 shutdown, and one of the first in the entire world.

Returning behind closed doors, the NRL’s return netted 838,000 total broadcast viewers on Channel Nine, and 366,000 total broadcast viewers on Fox League, ranking as the tenth highest viewed program in Australia on May 28.

Social interactions led the way in the NRL’s return, however, as the NRL recorded 370,000 social interactions and over 500,000 video views.

The NRL closed its 2020 season out with the 2020 State of Origin Series decider, which recorded 2.7 million viewers and became the most attended sporting event in the world since the COVID-19 shutdown of sports.

Despite this, game one of the 2020 Origin Series was the lowest metro audience since 2001, with 1.59 million metro viewers.

To view part five of the Ministry of Sport 2020 in review series looking at the top five stories of 2020 for netball, click here, otherwise, keep an eye out on the Ministry of Sport website and social media channels for the next release in the series.

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