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NRL plays it cool as broadcast partner Nine comes under scrutiny

The National Rugby League, Australia’s top rugby league competition, said it is “comfortable” with its broadcast rights partnership with Nine, as the commercial television network awaits the outcome of talks with its creditors.

The Australian newspaper reports Nine warned its creditors that its key sports contracts, particularly the recently-negotiated five-year deal with the NRL, would be at risk if they placed the network into receivership. Nine and pay-television operator Fox Sports retained domestic rights for the NRL in August. The deal, from 2013 to 2017, was worth a total of A$1.025 billion (€819.5 million/$1.08 billion).

“We’ve got a contract with Channel Nine and it’s a binding contract so we’re comfortable with our relationship,” NRL interim chief executive Shane Mattiske said. “We know how important we are to Nine and clearly that will be understood by all the parties involved behind the scenes at Nine as well.”

Nine management has held meetings with US hedge fund representatives Apollo and Oaktree in a bid to refinance a $2.8 billion debt that is owed. Mattiske said the NRL was aware of Nine’s financial difficulties before it agreed the television deal last month.

“We spent a lot of time during the negotiation process understanding the complexities that sit behind the Nine Network’s investment and debt structure,” he added. “That work allowed us to have comfort and certainty. We’re comfortable to rely on the contract that’s in place.”