NRL Pause Plans For A 17th Team Due To COVID-19

he NRL has put plans on hold to introduced a 17th team based in Queensland due to financial strain caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The NRL had plans to bring in a new Brisbane team in 2023; however, that has been put on hold due to the cost of moving 12 teams to Queensland to finish the NRL season due to the latest outbreaks in NSW.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, Peter V’Landys, confirmed the decision, saying: “The analysis of expansion has stopped for the moment.”

The NRL broke the news to the standing 16 teams on Tuesday that the expansion will potentially be delayed until 2024 as the game remains financially strained.

“I have said to the clubs that the work on the expansion has stopped for the moment, but the work will recommence on it,” V’Landys said.

The NRL decided to bring in a new team in 2023 to commence their new broadcasting deal with Channel 9.

V’Landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo are still optimistic about adding a new team; however, the game is losing money due to a lack of crowds and the cost of relocating the final months of the 2021 season to Queensland.

V’Landys said: “I’m the chairman of the board and it is not true to say the expansion is absolutely off (for 2023).”

“The ARL Commission will make the final decision,” he said.

“We have to put the tools down on the expansion and until we pick up the tools again, I can’t tell you if we will have another team for 2023.

“We have a lot of variables to consider, including the current challenges (keeping the NRL competition alive in Queensland),” V’Landys said.

Due to the cost of relocating the entire competition to Queensland this season, the NRL is set to lose approximately AUD$45 million.

Head of the Brisbane Jets expansion bid, Nick Livermore, expressed his concern about delaying the proposal for too long, risking the AFL a chance to expand in Queensland.

“The ARL Commission would be aware of the risk factor of delaying the expansion for too long, especially with the AFL targeting Brisbane’s western corridor, which is the highest growing population area in Queensland,” Livermore said.

“We are at risk of losing ground to the AFL, but that may be a short-term risk we have to take to ensure the game’s stability,” he said.