The NRL, and the clubs that populate it, showed ample flexibility in 2020 and 2021 to manoeuvre through fixture obstacles amidst the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, many clubs will now be faced with another set of problems as numerous teams are set to be displaced for an extended period of time as a result of the scheduling of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
According to the Herald, FIFA will play games at Accor Stadium, Sydney Football Stadium, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and Melbourne’s AAMI Park for up to nine weeks, in blocks from June to August next year.
The scheduling of the tournament within these venues will displace the Sydney Roosters, Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Brisbane Broncos, Redcliffe Dolphins and Melbourne Storm, for periods of time.
However, the Wests Tigers will also be affected as Leichardt Oval will serve as a training ground for the tournament.
FIFA will reportedly take over the listed venues four weeks prior to the first games, with some stadiums hosting fixtures for up to nine weeks after this initial period.
“We are working with state governments, stadiums and impacted clubs about options that best suit them and their fans during the period where home venues are offline,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.
“There will be additional complexities and challenges with next season’s draw, but the NRL and clubs will be innovative and work together as a game to ensure the best possible season continuity during this period.
“We’ll certainly be taking into consideration the stadium availabilities as we formulate the schedule for next year, but I’m sure all clubs will understand that there will be added constraints.”
Despite the scheduling having been set, there are still discussions between FIFA and the league's head office to ensure the NRL is able to operate effectively throughout the regular season.
The Herald is reporting that there are a few options on the table, including:
- Stacking home games at the start of the season for teams affected by the World Cup.
- Scheduling byes (which will be increased from one to two per season when it becomes a 17-team competition next year) for teams affected by the schedule clash
- Take games to regional venues
The scheduling conflict could also potentially impact the 2023 State of Origin series, with the New South Wales Blues set to host game three, which was originally tipped to be played at Accor Stadium.