NRL clubs to receive share of $30M funding

IAN MCCULLOUGH
Last updated 00:13 18/10/2012

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NRL clubs will receive their sustainability grants from the ARL Commission on Thursday after a $30 million funding payment was negotiated with the Nine Network.

Clubs were each promised $500,000 before October 31, but were told this week to expect delays by the ARLC who were still waiting to be paid by Nine.

But after the network avoided administration on Wednesday when Nine Entertainment chief David Gyngell thrashed out a deal with lenders, the funds were transferred to the ARLC and will be in clubs' bank accounts by Thursday.

"From the moment we signed the heads of agreement with our broadcast partners we've been working towards providing this payment to the clubs," ARLC interim chief executive Shane Mattiske said.

"This afternoon we reached a point where Nine was sufficiently comfortable to make the payment.

"This is just the start of the benefits the new broadcast rights deal will provide to the game's stakeholders over the term of the agreement but it's a significant step for the clubs."

Given Nine's parlous financial state, the commission demanded an up-front $80m payment before signing off on the joint billion dollar broadcast deal with Fox Sports in August.

The news comes at a perfect time for Mattiske, who will host the monthly meeting with club CEOs on Thursday morning in Sydney.

However, he's certain to be grilled by club chiefs about the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement talks with the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).

Clubs are desperate to discover how much they'll have to work with under the new salary cap, which cannot be locked in until the two parties reach a compromise.

The new billion dollar broadcast deal will facilitate an increase to the current $4.4m cap, but the two parties are believed to be some way away from signing off on a deal.

The RLPA want a dramatic increase for representative payments to players and to raise the minimum wage from $55,000 as part of the agreement.

"I was hoping to know more after the meeting, as it will make things a lot easier to budget for," Canberra CEO Don Furner told AAP.

"The RLPA are working on a new EBA, but I know Steve Noyce was involved - he's now left the Roosters - and Richo (South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson) is overseas. So I am not too sure what the situation is."

North Queensland CEO Peter Jourdain is also keen to find out so he can begin his task of keeping his big-name stars who are off-contract at the end of 2013.

Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen, Matt Scott, James Tamou, Dallas Johnson and Brent Tate are among the 20 Cowboys players who are chasing new deals.

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"We've been given a fair indication of what the cap will be," Jourdain told AAP.

"We have another year to go with most of this group and we're hopeful we can keep them."

RLPA chairman David Garnsey said he's hopeful of rubber-stamping an agreement by October 31, but said the association would not be rushed.

"It's not like a football game, there's no halftime and fulltime," Garnsey told AAP.

"We're working nominally to a October 31 deadline, makes sense as that's when the current agreement ends.

"We'll be resuming our talks in the near future."

- AAP

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