NRL claims approval to resume season despite NSW government's contrary stance

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys insists the NRL will be able to resume its season by the end of May, despite the New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian saying the government had not given the green light for the league to begin playing again.

Asked on Friday whether the government had given approval to the NRL to resume on 28 May Berejiklian told the ABC the “short answer is no”. The premier said it would be up to the NRL to show health authorities it could resume safely.

“If you’re asking me whether the NSW government has formally given approval, the short answer is no,” she said.

“The organisation has to show that they’re compliant to the health rules and if they don’t, they don’t proceed. If they do well, good luck to them or any other organisation.”

But V’landys, also speaking on the ABC, insisted the league already has approval to resume “from the necessary departments”.

“We do have to show our plans and our actions. I’ve got to say from the outset this is six weeks away, it’s not tomorrow or next week. There’s six weeks of more data and more looking at the health measures we will put in place [before resuming],” he said.

The league has pushed ahead with its plan to begin holding matches by the end of May, despite criticism from the Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Australia’s chief medical officer.

Last week the NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller, who has been placed in charge of the state’s response to Covid-19, wrote to V’landys, saying there was no legal obstacle for the NRL’s plans to resume playing, despite strict public health orders.

It appears V’landys is relying on that advice, which is based on earlier exemptions in the state’s public health orders introduced before tighter controls on broader public movement which allow professional sport to continue. The league would still have to show, however, that it could demonstrate it could resume safely.

Asked what agencies had granted approvals for the game to resume, V’landys said the public health orders “doesn’t preclude us from playing the game as long as we can show the government we have the appropriate biosecurity measures in place and there’s no health risk to any of the players”.

“And we will show that and we will do it. At the moment we could play tomorrow if we could show that we’ve got those measures in place,” he said. “In the health order it precludes sport from the social distancing measures and allows us to play.”

He said the NRL would introduce “strict biosecurity measures” at venues, and conduct temperature checks on players three times a day.

“The proof is in the pudding at the moment, not one player has proven positive to the virus so all of our players have been following our self isolation rules and [are] not interacting with the community,” he said.

“We’ve got six weeks as I say to see how the infection rate is going, if the infection rate spikes well naturally we will re-target another date.”