Panthers bracing for $40 million loss
Penrith's football club and five licensed clubs are bracing for a $40 million loss over the next six months because of coronavirus.
The Panthers will be dragged to the financial brink - on and off the field.
Penrith's five leagues clubs - Panthers at Penrith, Panthers Port Macquarie, Bathurst Panthers, North Richmond Panthers and Glenbrook Panthers - are facing a combined $30 million loss through until mid-September.
And with crowd lockouts and a savage decrease in merchandise and sponsors, the Panthers football club will lose around $9 million this season.
Penrith had already budgeted for a $5 million loss this season due to playing home matches at an empty Panthers Stadium.
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No Penrith official is underestimating the enormous affect the coronavirus will have on the club's bottom line.
"The football club, it would be out to a loss of nearly $9 million," Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher said.
With five licensed premises, Penrith will be crippled financially by a Federal Government decision to shut down all clubs for a predicted six months.
"It's a 100 per cent downturn," Fletcher said. "They've closed all the clubs. There's no income. All there is is expenses.
"But there are a lot of people a lot worse off than us. We're all alive. We just have to get through it and we will.
"We have to be smart enough to come out the other end and we will do that.
"We have cut a lot of costs and our staff has gone on annual leave and long service leave.
"We're looking at every avenue where we can save money."
Despite the horrific losses, Fletcher believes Penrith, who were formed in 1967, can win the fight for survival.
"We'll be around when this all ends but it will be tough going,'' he said.
"We have to make sure we're on top of it, that is the main thing. Everyone is aware of it.
"The players are good. Everyone is doing their bit. We just have to make sure we come out the other end."
Officials at all clubs are constantly reminding players they need to support the NRL's decision to continue playing matches.
And the players want to do that.
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"I'm happy to keep playing," Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga said. "If we keep playing we keep playing, if we don't we don't.
"It's a big pandemic. I just hope everyone is staying safe and healthy."
Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce added: "This is the happiest part of the year. You train all year and now you get the opportunity to play footy. We can't wait to get out there against Cronulla next week."
All 16 clubs fear financial collapse should matches be postponed or cancelled.
"We're just concentrating on trying to survive," one Sydney-based CEO said. "It's taking up all your time. The problem is this is a moving beast.
"You don't wake up and think 'let's fix that problem' because then another problem arises.
"But you do feel that the NRL is really confident about playing. That's a good thing.
"It comes down in four drips. Fox, Nine, if they don't have a product then they don't pay the NRL.
"And if the NRL don't get any money then they don't pay the clubs and if the clubs don't get any players then the players don't get paid. It's not hard.
"I can't help but think if John Grant was still in charge, the game would have been pulled up.
"Peter Beattie would have been like a politician.
"The players are under no illusions how drastic this is."
Originally published as Panthers bracing for $40 million loss