Cashed-up NRL review salary cap arrangements

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 13:40 24/02/2014

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The NRL increased its profit tenfold last season to A$50 million. At today's annual general meeting, it will outline plans as to how the money will be used to enhance the game.

After announcing a profit of A$4.6 million last year, the NRL has advised stakeholders the 2013 profit has risen to A$49.6 million, the biggest in the game's history.

The principal reason is a massive rise in television revenue, which rose to A$221 million last year under a new A$1.2 billion broadcasting deal with Channel Nine, Fox Sports and Telstra. In comparison, broadcasting revenue was A$101 million in 2012.

Income from sponsorship, merchandise and gate receipts is also up significantly but the NRL has also increased spending in areas such as the annual club grant, which almost doubled from A$46.2 million in 2012.

To ensure better financial viability for clubs, the NRL increased the grant to each club from A$3.85 million per year to A$5.85 million and gave an extra A$1.15 million to clubs for providing commercial assets to the governing body, including online assets and ground signage, as well as commitments on financial systems and reporting, welfare and education and community relations.

There has also been increased spending on the establishment of an integrity unit and other governance measures after the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation that cost A$2.2 million. The NRL gave another A$6.8 million to clubs, including funds for the appointments of Bruno Cullen and Steve Noyce at Cronulla, as well as loans to Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra.

With the game in its strongest financial position yet, the NRL is considering some radical changes to the salary cap. However, chief operating officer Jim Doyle said they would not be introduced this season.

''There are some things that we are looking at for this year and that is around governance improvements and the second tier,'' Doyle said. ''Everything else won't be for this season ... but we know that we need to get it done relatively quickly so the clubs can start planning. They will obviously start planning and contracting key players after it.''

Last week it was reported that the second-tier cap was to rise to A$440,000 per club this season to avoid situations like last year when boom rookies Luke Brooks and Matt Moylan were unable to play NRL without Wests Tigers and Penrith seeking dispensation.

Other changes being considered are understood to include:

- Clubs being able to sign players from outside the NRL, even if they did not fit in the cap;

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- Centrally contracting big-name players through ''ambassador'' payments from the NRL;

- Including transfer fees in the cap, such as the A$300,000 Brisbane paid Canterbury to release fullback Ben Barba;

- Rolling the existing marquee player allowance into an increased salary cap;

- Clubs putting up a A$10,000 bond to appeal salary cap rulings and a further A$30,000 bond to take the issue to a hearing;

- Rolling the existing marquee player allowance into an increased salary cap, and,

- Extending the long-serving player allowance to include those who have played with a club for six years.

''We have taken a really extensive review of the salary cap and said 'let's make sure we look at everything','' Doyle said.

''We are still discussing it.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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