NRL's five-year plan to raise salary cap
28 March 2006Â
By BRAD WALTER
Sydney Morning Herald
The salary cap is set to rise every season for the next five years under a proposal to be put to NRL clubs today.
NRL chief executive David Gallop last night confirmed he would recommend the series of increases when club officials meet to discuss collective bargaining negotiations with the Rugby League Players' Association.
The RLPA has already tabled demands for the salary cap to be increased to up to $5 million and another round of talks has been scheduled for tomorrow.
While the NRL will not agree to such a large hike to the ceiling for player payments, the rise from $3.365m will be significant over time if the two parties agree to Gallop's proposal.
To offset the added cost, clubs will also receive an increase in their annual grant and the NRL eventually hopes to match the amount of the salary cap.
The current grant is $2.75m, while the minimum amount a club must spend on player payments is $3m. But with concessions included, the overall salary cap figure is closer to $3.9m. After taking into account payments to lower-grade players, clubs are spending on average up to $900,000 more than that.
"We'll put forward a summary of the RLPA's position and how we believe it should be responded to, primarily in relation to the salary cap," Gallop told the Herald ahead of the meeting with club chief executives. "That will include how the gap between the cap and grant can continue to be narrowed.
AdvertisementAdvertisement"The clubs' ability to afford a cap increase is paramount in the discussions with the players' association. No one wants to go back to the days when we had clubs falling over and being unable to pay their players. A competition without an effective salary cap would be uneven and the gap between rich and poor would turn fans off in droves."
With St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier awaiting what is expected to be an offer of up to $800,000 from the Australian Rugby Union and Dragons captain Trent Barrett heavily linked to a move to English club Wigan in 2007, there have been repeated calls for the NRL to do more to keep star players. But despite the new increased free-to-air television deal with Channel Nine, Gallop said the game still faced financial constraints and could not afford to neglect its grassroots.
"We believe that informed debate is healthy but, unlike some of the ideas that have come up in the last couple of weeks, that debate has to take place in the context of the game's financial picture and, importantly, the need for the game to continue to invest in the right areas," he said.
"It's the responsibility of the club CEOs to ensure that their players and staff are not making comments with no appreciation for the facts."
Asked whether the next announcement of a salary cap increase would include regular rises over a lengthy period of time, Gallop said: "The proposal we put forward will cover at least the next five years."
The news comes in the wake of a deal struck between Clubs NSW and the State Government to cut the size of poker machine tax increases but Gallop said clubs were still heavily affected.
"There is still a significant tax hike and that will maintain the pressure on leagues clubs to be able to fund football clubs, so it certainly doesn't mean that clubs are out of the woods," he said. "The effects could have been catastrophic. They're still going to be significant."
After taking months to negotiate the inaugural CBA, Gallop anticipated the new deal would be finalised relatively quickly, saying: "I'm hopeful that the players' association are becoming more and more aware of the financial realities that face the game."
NRL clubs are split over the issue of a salary cap rise, with AAP last night reporting that Parramatta, Canberra, St George Illawarra, Manly, the Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and South Sydney were against an increase.
"It all comes down to a financial situation and my club definitely can't afford to be putting up the salary cap," said Eels boss Denis Fitzgerald, who is representing the clubs in the CBA negotiations.
"I will have to represent what the majority of clubs think rather than my personal view, so we will see what the majority of the clubs say on Tuesday."