NRL: Front up to footy players

remote2

13 November 2023

NRL: Front up to footy players

What is the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) dispute with the NRL and what are the players asking for?

The bosses went off at half time and are refusing to come back out of the sheds.

The National Rugby League (NRL) and it’s CEO Andrew Abdo must stop seeking to cut the rights and conditions of rugby league players and return to the bargaining table. In response to the Rugby League Players Association’s (RLPA) settlement offer they’ve shut down negotiation and appear focused on power and control over players.  

Male and female footballers deserve respect, ownership over their future, long term medical care and their fundamental employment rights like the right to negotiate collectively.

The NRL and ARL Commission are using the current agreement negotiations to undermine conditions like player’s rights over their own medical information, cutting future medical insurance and refusing to acknowledge that player’s collective IP is owned by them in their union. These are just a handful of the 100 conditions that the NRL and ARL Commission are attempting to force into the settlement while refusing to negotiate, while seeking to cut the pay of players on the supplementary and training wages who are already making below the median Australian wage. 

The players in their union deserve consultation and are seeking a formal industrial relations mediator, a common practice in industrial disputes. The NRL and ARL Commission are refusing to take this basic step, demonstrating a lack of respect for players and the game. 

We call on Andrew Abdo to come to the negotiating table, engage in meaningful dialogue with players and RLPA representatives, and to seek an outcome that puts the needs of players, their families and the game first. 

For more information on the dispute check out the RLPA’s FAQ.

What have the NRL and ARL Commission done?

As mentioned, the NRL has made over 100 changes to our settlement proposal, where we did not ask for a single dollar more from the game. We recognise that the ARL Commission set a salary cap for NRL Top 30 and Development players this season. 

But as players and the RLPA have stated, this CBA is about more than just an increased salary cap. A CBA does not start and end with a salary cap on players. 

Despite clubs working with us agreeing with on all terms and conditions that affect clubs and players, below is a brief outline of some of the NRL’s changes and how they are trying to increase their power and control over players.

2023 NRL Top 30 Minimum Salary (Male players only):

The NRL has reduced this to $120,000, which is $10,000 less than our proposed minimum salary.

2023 NRL Supplementary List Salary (Male players only):

The NRL has reduced this salary to $70,000, which is $15,000 less than our proposal for 2023.

2023 NRL Training Wage (Male players only):

The NRL has reduced this weekly training wage to $1,000, which is less than our $1,200 proposal.

NRL Season Structure (Male players only):

The NRL want to be able to add two more rounds to the NRL schedule without the agreement of the players. That would be at least another 16 matches that they don’t have to agree with the RLPA.

This would place a health and safety risk on players and is a clear player workload issue. At a time when the game has never been more intense, the NRL and ARL Commission should not be looking to increase the match obligations of players without agreement with you.

We should be working in partnership to create a much-improved schedule that increases the career length of players. Agreement with players is not stopping the game from moving forward, it’s respecting the players as partners and working together.

Above Forecast Revenue Share:

The NRL has kept our peace offering of allowing them to retain $300m of above-forecast revenue to buy assets for the game and protect its future. The players offered that as an innovative and responsible measure to help progress negotiations and grow the game (eg investment in state leagues and grassroots).

The game will exceed its forecast, as it has always done every year outside of COVID in 2020. That financial success is because the product is excellent, and players make the product.

Without players, there is no game, and without fans, there is no profession.

Unfortunately, the $300m peace offering still isn’t good enough for the NRL and ARL Commission:  

  • If they sell rights to broadcasters other than Nine or Fox, or sell content other than the NRL competition (e.g. an international series), players won’t share in that money. The NRL will keep it, despite the broadcaster paying to televise players playing the game. 
  • If the competition expands, the NRL want it to be up to the players to fund costs that should otherwise be for the NRL to pick up, such as travel and accommodation, administration, and match officials’ costs – so the NRL expect players to pay all of those costs from their share of revenue. 
  • If the players do become entitled to above-forecast revenue, the NRL wants to offset its liability with a bunch of other discretionary payments that may have been applied to players. 

Adverse Change:

If the game loses more than $10m in a single year, despite exceeding forecasts every other year, the NRL want players to share in that loss. That means the NRL could beat their revenue forecasts over the 2023-27 term, but the players would still have to take cuts to their pay and/or benefits.

The NRL could also terminate the CBA if they lose a total of $40m during the term, even if that was foreseen or it was due to their own poor financial estimates or deal-making. 

The NRL terminating the CBA at their discretion would leave the players incredibly vulnerable, removing rights that have been secured and certainty around your payments and the funds set up to support players in transition and retirement.

Financial Reporting

Based on how much we had to fight for you during COVID and last year’s revenue share negotiations, you will know how important it is to have the proper rights and access to accurate financial information from the NRL.

However, the NRL has tried to minimise its financial reporting requirements and the ability for the RLPA to challenge and audit NRL accounts in order to verify numbers and ensure compliance with the CBA.

International Payments:

The NRL have included international payments for NRL-run international series to be paid for by the players. Players from all Nations will be paying for their own international payments. The NRL wants to then take any revenue generated from those games without sharing it with the players.

This might be acceptable if the NRL included money from these matches in their financial forecasts, and in the players’ share of revenue. But they haven’t, and they’re not being transparent. 

They want to use money generated by the NRL and NRLW competitions to pay for those international matches.

This is an unprecedented attempt to change the player payment model and will take money away from your other benefits (like Retirement Account and Past Player Medical Support) while the NRL can take all the money generated from your international games.

Our position is that there should be equal payments for all players from all Nations playing in these tournaments. However, those payments should be determined and paid for by the money (sponsorships, broadcast, tickets, government funding) generated from those international games.

Integrity:

The NRL have tried to place significant limitations on the RLPA’s access to integrity-related notices, limiting our ability to fully support players and ensure the process is a fair one.

Insurances:

The NRL has tried to include Representative Injury Insurance being paid for from the players’ money, despite that insurance being of zero benefit to players. This insurance is not a benefit for players so you shouldn’t have to pay for it. 

You have contract security already, so this would be paying insurance for the salaries you are entitled to.

They also don’t want to contribute another cent to any future player insurance that may be required in the future. It seems strange for a governing body of the toughest sport in the world to try to remove that responsibility through a CBA. 

Consultation Process:

The NRL have tried to reduce their obligations on what they have to discuss when consulting with the RLPA and reduced our ability to challenge their decision-making and keep them accountable. This is a blatant attempt to keep us information-poor and cut out the players’ voice on important matters that impact you.

Player Property:

The NRL refuses to acknowledge that players have assigned their Group IP rights to the RLPA. 

The NRL also want to reduce player property protection and give themselves the right to exploit individual player property without paying you.

RLPA Commercial Rights:

The NRL is trying to dictate how many commercial partners (including servicing arrangements) the RLPA can have, reducing our ability to generate additional money that could help support players. 

The NRL want us to get their approval for sponsors, despite the RLPA being an independent organisation, and they want to limit how we can use our own members (the players) in any promotional material or activities.

RLPA Allocation:

The NRL is trying to restrict how much funding the RLPA can have, despite that the money that we run our business on comes from the players’ share. The players fund the RLPA, not the NRL.

The NRL want the RLPA to operate on less funding than we secured in the 2018-2022 CBA. Less funding despite servicing over 60% more players through the 17th NRL team (and possibly an 18th team) and up to 12 NRLW teams over the term.

The NRL want the RLPA to do more work for less money in an attempt to de-power us. This is classic union-busting and is a complete overreach into an independent Association. We must be able to continually meet your needs and appropriately fund the RLPA (which is determined by the players and our Board). 

The NRL will try to position publicly our proposed funding increase as the RLPA trying to ‘fatten’ themselves. The NRL don’t fund the RLPA, the players do. We don’t dictate how much the NRL spend or on what, so it’s not for the NRL to dictate how the players spend their money.

Not only do they want us to operate on less than we secured under the last CBA, the NRL agrees that the RLPA should take on more responsibilities (Past Player and Transition Program etc) but without any increase in funds to run those initiatives.

Rollover of Next CBA:

During any rollover period of this next CBA, the NRL has tried to prohibit the RLPA and players from taking industrial action. Combined with keeping players at lower payment levels during any rollover period, it incentivises the NRL to delay and stall bargaining (like they are doing now).

Player Data and Medical Information:

The NRL’s position on the collection and storage of player data (both medical and otherwise) doesn’t comply with privacy laws. They are attempting to assert ownership over a lot of your data and use it for any range of reasons without your express informed consent. 

By failing to responsibly protect your personal data and interests, this becomes just another demonstration of significant overreach and is an attempted abuse of power.

Show your support by signing the petition, to gain an independent mediator to step in and facilitate negotiations between the RLPA and the NRL/ARL.