Shine the light on NRL salaries to avoid speculation

Adam Vaughan Roar Pro

By , Adam Vaughan is a Roar Pro

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    There has been a bit of talk lately in regards to having a more transparent salary cap system in the NRL, similar to that used in many American sports who also operate under a salary cap.

    Essentially, players’ salaries are open to the public so that everyone can see how each team is put together by staying under the salary cap.

    Granted, these salary caps dwarf the NRL’s 2018 cap of $9.4 million, but the point isn’t so much about what the salary cap is, it is about having a transparent system in place so that everyone can see how the teams are staying compliant.

    The US sports don’t have any ‘Third Party Agreements’ to muddle everything up either. Sure, lots of players have substantial endorsement deals, but they are available to every player. If a company wants to pay a player to wear their shoes, clothes, watches, hats, sunglasses or eat/drink their product when out in public, no problem. The players all have agents who work all these things out for them.

    The franchises and organisations stay out of it, unless these endorsements enter the field of play, which usually impacts on the organisation’s own commercial deals. Outside of that, the players are free to have any commercial deal that they want.

    And yes, these deals can be very lucrative. Just look at New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    In 2015, ‘Gronk’, as he is known throughout the sporting universe, stated in his book It’s Good to be Gronk that he hadn’t had to spend one cent of his NFL contract or signing bonus money because of his income from various endorsement deals.

    And just to put this into perspective, when Gronkowski made this statement he had earned around US$16.3 million in his first five seasons in the NFL.

    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) catches a 10-yard touchdown pass while being defended by Denver Broncos cornerback Andre' Goodman (21) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    According to the man himself, who incidentally has a habit of being too honest at times, all of that US$16.3 million is in the bank.

    His estimated endorsement value of between US$3.5 – US$4 million has been his spending money.

    Other than the actual figures themselves, as an Australian sports enthusiast, what is the strangest part of all of this?

    The fact we can all find out what these figures are, and with a fairly high degree of accuracy, is the thing that should hit you right between the eyes.

    Try doing that for Paul Gallen. Or maybe Johnathan Thurston? Cameron Smith or Cooper Cronk?

    You only get estimates or educated guesses. And then, they are only salary cap estimates, not the grey world figures that make up the ‘Third Party Agreements’ that they earn.

    The US doesn’t have salary cap rorts because the information is out there on public record. It’s black and white. There is no grey area.

    The same simply cannot be said for the NRL.

    Cooper Cronk’s rumoured move to the Roosters is a prime example of how blind the sporting public are.

    You know, the ones who buy the memberships, the merchandise, the pay TV subscriptions and desperately want to believe that their team has a chance to win the premiership.

    Remember them? It’s you.

    The reality is, most of us know that there are some clubs who are always going to be in with a chance, and then there are others who simply won’t.

    Forget the fans for a moment.

    What about the players? Especially those playing for the ‘have nots’. How do you think they feel, knowing full well that some of the teams they play against are getting paid a lot more than what he and his teammates are?

    All because of the cloak and dagger attitude to ‘Third Party Agreements’. For the good of the competition, free the game of all of this and get rid of them.

    Make the salary cap a fair cap for all teams.

    Cooper Cronk Melbourne Storm NRL Rugby League

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Let the players look after themselves with their own commercial deals, but make the relationship between them and those companies public knowledge. If there is a link to the club they play for, it automatically becomes part of the cap price for that player.

    But then we have the issue of investigating these deals and having people in charge who can actually conduct these investigations properly.

    The NRL have proven that they can’t do it unless the media does half their job for them. And even then, the legalities of what can and can’t be done becomes a murky mess.

    And this, above all else, is the reason why we will never have transparency in the NRL.

    It is just too hard to for the NRL to police. Which means the smart operators will continue to be successful.

    And why we may well see Cronk in a Roosters jersey in 2018. We just won’t know how he squeezed into it.

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