In a recent development within the National Rugby League (NRL), private consideration is taking place on whether it will cease funding the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA). The scenario arises amidst the long-lasting disagreement between these organisations.
Annually, the NRL designates $3 million to the RLPA to manage its operations, setting aside a five-year budget of $15 million under the proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA). It’s key to note that the players do not incur costs for RLPA membership as the current structure does not recognise it as an official union.
Speculation within NRL circles suggests that the RLPA may need to self-fund due to the ongoing CBA dispute and recent decisions such as game-day media refusal and covering the NRL logo during matches. There is also rumour of a potential player boycotting of the year-end Dally M awards.
RLPA CEO, Clint Newton‘s visit to Melbourne to speak with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) caught the attention of several. ACTU secretary Sally McManus expressed union movement’s willingness to fully back the RLPA, fostering unity with the players.
The RLPA, however, maintains that it is not a legal union. Were it a union, the players would have to choose whether or not to be members. The Association states that it’s funded by the players, not the NRL.
The question being discussed within NRL leadership is why the players aren’t given the choice to be RLPA members. “The players already pay for their association, not the NRL,” said the RLPA in a statement, asserting that the NRL is like a bank that governs the game but doesn’t control the allocation of players’ money to their chosen services, including the independent RLPA.
Approximately $4000 per player annually is how the $3 million in funding roughly breaks down. If NRL funding were withdrawn, players could likely face a similar annual out-of-pocket expense. It is deemed unlikely that all players would subscribe to the RLPA if membership fees were introduced.
Newton continues to advocate for an independent industrial relations mediator to smooth out the issues before finalising an NRL deal.
Additional requests by the RLPA from the NRL include $9 million dedicated to an injury hardship fund, $4.3 million for a new transition and past player fund, $10 million for a past player and medical hardship fund, and $800,000 for a general hardship fund.
An end-of-season series between Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa is soon to be confirmed. Whilst the ongoing dispute between NRL and RLPA might complicate players’ payment for test matches, the games should go ahead, funded by their respective national bodies.
In the absence of a CBA by October, New Zealand players and visiting teams will be paid a projected $3000 per test.
Initially, Tonga was intended to be included in the series, but they have agreed to a three-Test series against England.
The NRL has proposed a flat fee of $5000 per Test for all players, which would be sourced from their record $1.34 billion proposed to the players in the new CBA. The RLPA, however, insists that Test payments should come from the income generated at each Test.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga supports a flat fee for all Test players, suggesting performance-based incentives drawn from gate takings and television ratings.
Broadcasters for the tri-nations tournament have been secured and with Jarome Luai‘s Samoa having reached the final of last year’s World Cup, and the race for Reece Walsh and James Tedesco for the Kangaroos’ No.1 role, the tournament is expected to generate a strong viewership.