ARL Commission chairman John Grant has hinted he may be prepared to compromise over his desire for a $225 million future fund, but maintained it was always his hope that the administration would have more than double that amount at its disposal.
ARLC officials and the Rugby League Players' Association will meet on Wednesday, with the future fund - money the commission hopes to bank to carry out a five-year strategic plan - expected to be central to the negotiations.
With the clubs unwilling to have any increase in the salary cap absorbed into the current $7 million annual club grant, the ARLC has been under pressure from the players to release some of the money set aside for the future fund.
Grant met club bosses on Monday over lunch in Brighton, and addressed the issue of the future fund. He described the mood among the clubs as positive, but will unlikely achieve the same feelings among the players if his refusal to so far dip into the future fund is continued.
While it is unlikely any new CBA will be signed until the new year, Grant hoped it would be formalised soon after. ''We've got a way to go yet,'' he said. But his stance on the importance of the future fund has so far been unwavering.
''As I said to the players the other day, no one gets a mortgage on their position,'' Grant said. ''This is a compromise. Everyone needs to compromise because at the end of the day, we're actually chasing the same thing. The players are chasing their remuneration, obviously, but they're also chasing a place in the future ... we'll work our way towards an outcome.''
Asked whether he was willing to compromise on the $225 million set aside for the future fund, Grant said: ''We'll see. We'll have to wait and see. As I said to the players, the future fund is $225 million, but the costs of implementing the strategic plan is considerably more that that.'' Still, there was a bullish footnote. ''We need to reach a compromise, and if we can't reach a compromise, then I guess we need to make a decision, and I'd prefer not to be in the position of having to make a decision,'' Grant said. ''That's our responsibility as the commission.
''If we can't reach an agreement, what do you do next? The only thing we can do is make the decision we think is right for the game.'' Asked how the commission came to the $225 million figure, Grant said officials had done so knowing that the AFL has put aside far more in recent years: ''We costed the strategic plan - what would it cost to implement all of the initiatives in the strategic plan, and we came up with $300 million more than the $225 million?
''Either you want to grow your game, or you don't. Our responsibility is to the whole of [the] game, and to growing this game. The players are an absolute vital part of that. But along the way, we have to come to a meeting of minds on this.''
With the players having been given an address about the future fund last Friday, Grant discussed the issue with the clubs, as well as key officials at Monday's Christmas lunch - with only representatives of the Warriors, Newcastle, Manly and Gold Coast absent - and plans to brief the clubs in the same way he did the players in the new year.
''At the moment, that's what we think is the amount of money which is needed to grow this game,'' Grant said. ''It's pretty much a stake in the ground. We'll deal with that over time ... we briefed the players, and the reason for that was to give them some context for the finances of the game, that they benefit from. Our intent is to keep a very sizeable amount of money to develop this game. I think they [players] understood it.''
- Sydney Morning Herald
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