The NRL is poised to reject a push from the player’s union for an immediate increase in the salary cap, with any increases to be put off until the next broadcast rights deal.
While the collective bargaining agreement struck between the governing body and the Rugby League Players’ Association doesn’t expire until the end of 2017, there is a provision in the deal to “jointly undertake a review of the profitability of the game with a view to ascertaining whether payments and/or allowances can be increased”. That process is underway and the RLPA, pointing to the fact the NRL trumpeted a $50 million surplus for the financial year, is agitating for more money for its members.
However, it is understood the NRL will invest any additional funds that flow into the coffers into areas such as club grants and grassroots football.
“There will be different points of view on that but it will be numerically based,” NRL CEO Dave Smith said.
“It’s a mid-[CBA] review but our cash flows are pretty set for five years. We’ve got limited ability to significantly grow and you have to take costs into consideration because it is a profit review, not a revenue review.
“It’s designed to recognise that if there was a material change we would go through the process. At the end of the process we will come to a determination following the discussion between the two parties, we’re not there yet.”
The salary cap is $6.55 million and nominally set to increase to $6.8 million for next season and then $7 million for the following. Those levels are a significant increase following the sealing of a record broadcast rights deal.
“You have to think carefully about the balance,” Smith said. “The players, quite rightly, negotiated through the RLPA for a significant uplift [in the last CBA] and that’s representative of us having the best competition in the world. We should be paying our players well relative to other codes.
“Undoubtedly the players will get more money [as the game grows], of course we’ll want to keep up and keep ahead if we can.
“There is no chance whatsoever the players will go backwards, that won’t happen. At the same time we need to make sure our clubs are strong, that we are investing in grassroots, that we are investing in our international game, that we’re thinking about our Jillaroos. We need to think about every angle and that the game is funding all of those different bits appropriately and taking a medium to long-term view. That’s what we’ve asked Richo [NRL’s head of strategy Shane Richardson] to do in terms of his planning and I’m in the middle of a rights deal and lots of other things. It’s a balancing act, but there’s no sense of anyone going backwards – this is all about positive growth.”
Smith also headed off a revolt from clubland when he met with representatives of the 16 clubs in Melbourne on Thursday. There were suggestions the gathering would be a fiery one, with several powerbrokers demanding more money and say in the way the game is administered. However, the gathering was a constructive one, with the chairs and other club representatives leaving the summit united and upbeat.
“It was a solid agenda, good conversation and different points of view,” Smith said.
“It was very constructive, some smart people around the table. Not everyone is going to agree on everything, that’s a given. There are lots to work on but it was relatively positive and we’re happy with how it went [at Origin II] and generally about how the season is going.
“It’s not all rosy, there are one or two things we need to resolve … but it was a good conversation that will keep going.”
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