8 clubs....."we cant afford salary cap increase"
By Dean Ritchie
March 23, 2006
A MAJORITY of NRL clubs fear they cannot afford a salary cap increase and are preparing to fight the move to lift the cap to more than $3.5 million.
The NRL has called a meeting of chief executives for next Tuesday to discuss lifting the cap - but fierce opposition to the move is now certain.
Eight clubs are opposed to the cap increase, citing the NSW Government's poker machine tax hike affecting grants to football clubs as the key reason for their stance. Seven clubs want a rise.
NRL chief executive David Gallop described a rise in the cap, which is now $3.36 million, as "inevitable".
Gallop has suggested players should receive additional cash through the NRL's $400m television deal.
"It's inevitable there will be some increase," Gallop said.
"But it's a matter of what the clubs and the rest of the game can afford.
"We are conscious the players need a bigger share of the pie. Clubs are employers of players and their ability to afford a cap increase will be a huge factor taken into account."
Steve Gillis, president of the Player Managers' Executive, called for a significant increase. "Rugby union has a chuckle every time it wants to poach a league player because the NRL offers zero resistance and it's an easy exercise for them," Gillis said.
"The cap should go up because our best players are grossly underpaid. The salary cap should be nearing $5 million with superannuation outside that as well."
The Daily Telegraph contacted all 15 clubs with Brisbane, Newcastle, Melbourne, North Queensland, Sydney Roosters, Penrith and the Warriors in favour of an increase while Parramatta, Cronulla, Canberra, Manly, St George Illawarra, Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Souths are against.
Those against claim the game cannot financially sustain a salary cap increase with Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald believing the poker machine tax could shut down leagues clubs.
"A number of leagues clubs won't be able to continue with this draconian tax being inflicted upon us," Fitzgerald said. "If leagues clubs go broke, there will be no money for NRL clubs or juniors."
Sources claim the poker machine tax will, by 2011, have drained about $20m out of rugby league.
"My gut feeling is that we can't afford for the cap to go up at this stage," said Souths CEO Shane Richardson.
Dragons chief executive Peter Doust added: "In principle we can't afford an increase."
Bulldogs chief executive Malcolm Noad said: "We are happy where it is. There's only so much we can afford. Manly CEO Pat Wilson agreed, saying: "We are against an increase. It's about the game's capacity to afford it."
Wests Tigers CEO Steve Noyce said: "The threat of the poker machine tax is a real concern to us."
Tuesday's meeting will be followed by a second meeting on Wednesday between the NRL and RLPA where the cap will be discussed as part of negotiations over the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Among the supporting clubs, Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen said: "We're not against a rise - we can afford to pay it."
Newcastle CEO Ken Conway, said: "My personal view is it's time for an increase. There is more money coming into the game and I think the clubs and players are entitled to a share of it."
Roosters boss Brian Canavan said: "We need to progress. We need to attract and retain high-profile players."