Load lifted from Todd Greenberg as NRL bows to external forces

Todd Greenberg will sleep better tonight after he became the latest incidental victim of the coronavirus pandemic, quitting his post as NRL chief executive officer, effective immediately.

It appears as though Greenberg was left with no option other than to vacate the post he had held through the past four years. With rugby league joining countless sporting competitions across the globe in a shutdown to limit the spread of the pandemic, Greenberg found himself under attack on several fronts.

Media identities joined broadcast partners in criticising Greenberg's management, with some openly calling for his resignation. The revelation at the beginning of the shutdown that the NRL's reserves were close to empty, despite a massive broadcast deal, triggered a venomous storm with questionable origins.

The shock of near empty coffers at headquarters needed to be tempered by the knowledge that large sums had been handed to the clubs, many of which are also currently crying poor.

That the game was living largely from pay packet to pay packet was pilloried by a broadcaster who has long suffered plenty of its own financial struggles. The fact that Nine openly rubbed its corporate hands together at the prospect of saving $130million with the demise of the 2020 season, raised serious questions over the sincerity of their concerns for the well-being of the game.

Greenberg has a long history of handling some extremely difficult situations with aplomb, stretching back through his days in charge of the Bulldogs. If anyone was positioned to pull the game through this toughest of times, it was Greenberg. Throwing the CEO under the bus might take some immediate heat off the NRL, but it does little to solve a problem that is so much bigger than anything ever faced before.

The NRL needs players back on the field, completing the 2020 competition, meeting their contractual obligations to broadcasters, so that they receive that next pay packet. The authorities are dealing with a medical emergency which is claiming the lives of vulnerable people. The drastic measures already undertaken appear to be working, with the spread of the virus under much greater control than seen in other countries. There is no way that anyone wants to risk all that hard work in order to restart the competition on May 28 or any other ambitious date the NRL might select.

Greenberg's replacement, currently chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo, is walking into an impossible situation. No one is seriously considering putting the financial well-being of a sporting code above beating this pandemic.

The NRL is far from alone in facing the prospect of coronavirus induced financial ruin. Cricket Australia has recently announced that their pockets are empty, the FFA are struggling with the A-League and international football on hold and Rugby Australia are facing a massive financial hole.

And its not just sport of course, Greenberg's announcement came on the same day as Virgin Australia's collapse. The Federal Government unwilling to save the country's second domestic airline.

The whole world is suffering physically and economically. What is needed during and through these times is strong leadership, not scapegoating and managerial musical chairs. Greenberg may have erred in building an administrative structure that stretched beyond the game's means or needs. He may be guilty of irresponsible largesse in his overly optimistic vision for the game. But, he alone is not responsible for the perilous position the game is in and in all fairness very few organisations the world over had factored in a complete and undetermined shutdown of their operations.

Greenberg's departure won't fix this. As rugby league fans we can only hope it won't make matters worse.