Shine the light on NRL salaries to avoid speculation

Adam Vaughan Roar Pro

By Adam Vaughan, Adam Vaughan is a Roar Pro

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72 Have your say

    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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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 8:39am
      Edward Kelly said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Makes perfect sense to fans, but player agents have too much vested in keeping salaries secret and are one of the most powerful backroom influences in the NRL to let this happen.

      “Commercial in confidence” will be used as an excuse by the rich clubs to keep the third party agreements secret. If the NRL really had an independent commission they could make it happen.

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2017 @ 9:47am
        Dogs Of War said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Its not just player managers who have a vested interest in keeping it secret. A lot of boards would also like to cause they do overpay players at times, and would been seen to be held accountable when the clubs isn’t successful.

        I think it would be good to have that transparency. It would really highlight how the bigger clubs can keep players. Though you will have clubs similar to the New England Patriots who have players take pay cuts to be on a successful team. There is no stopping that.

        The other problem for NRL teams, that unlike most US sports, the contracts are not guaranteed. So injuries and the like cause major issues for the salary cap.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 12:59pm
          Cat said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          NFL contracts are not guaranteed. NHL, MLB, NBA contracts are.

          • Roar Guru

            October 19th 2017 @ 10:04am
            Dogs Of War said | October 19th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

            It’s what I meant. It wouldn’t let me edit it.

    • Roar Rookie

      October 18th 2017 @ 10:01am
      Squidward said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      The layers always always like to think they’re like the american football and basketball stars. Mate they can have visible salaries just like those guys

    • October 18th 2017 @ 10:53am
      peeeko said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      totally agree. i dont know who would object more, the player managers or the media who would have nothing to talk about

    • Roar Rookie

      October 18th 2017 @ 11:00am
      At work said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      Agree with everything you say, let’s open the books!
      I’m more interested from a supporter point of view, to speculate on what players are being paid and who you could fit inside your your teams cap

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 11:16am
      Nat said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Adam would you mind publishing what you earn on here please?

      With all due respect, I don’t think you understand how the TPA’s work. If you would like to know who each player is aligned with simply watch the pre-game team announcement. This info is publicly available. Further, every TV or radio ad featuring a player has a commercial agreement with them. I agree, there is a haves and have not disparity because some clubs have a commercial brand that some companies want to be associated with and this is where the player managers are to make said arrangements. The issue you raise with Player Managers for the have-nots is they either cannot or are not willing to find external sources for some players for 2 reasons: 1, They make $20-$50k p/a p/player as opposed to $3k -$5k p/TPA. 2, Very few companies want to be associated with that player/club. That’s the point, in 99% of instances, there has to be a commercial benefit to the Third Party – an ROI. The player does ads, shows up to events etc.

      To use your NFL example, can you offer a player from a perennial unsuccessful club who has the top TPA sponsorship? Not just a big number, they’re all big numbers, something that dwarfs Gronk from a club no where near as successful as the Patriots.

      • Roar Rookie

        October 18th 2017 @ 11:23am
        At work said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Nat employers don’t operate under a salary cap so the comparison doesn’t really work, in terms of Adam telling us what he’s on.

        The NRL has a salary cap, so it makes sense that the salaries are published for all to see.
        If players want to be more involved in the game and have a larger salary cap through the sharing of the NRL’s revenue, then they should be willing to give up something.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 11:39am
          Nat said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          I understand that. My point is that his, theirs or our salary is no one’s business but our own. All it would do is cause conjecture as to a players perceived worth as opposed to what they earn. If part of the new Player Assoc agreement they take a larger share and agree to get rid of TPA’s then it is still not our business the value of individual contracts. The NRL already oversee the proposed contracts and will not ratify new contracts, like the Dogs, where they see the players will bust the cap nor accept a $50k contract for a marquee player. Like the Storm or Parra, if they run foul of the cap they will get caught out eventually, therefore, lose credibility and sponsors. We all have different perception of a players value and will not understand, like Tede, why some players take unders to be at successful clubs. So, IMO, let the media speculate and leave a players earnings to themselves and the employer who pays it.

          • October 18th 2017 @ 5:50pm
            McNaulty said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

            Disclose wages.
            If the players don’t like it they are free to go do something else like labouring or play Rugby. Or they can strike, in which case clubs would field lower standard players, TV stations will probably consider it a breach of contract and pay less money. This will all end in less money for the players and agents.

            • Roar Guru

              October 19th 2017 @ 11:19am
              Nat said | October 19th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              Ok, so we diminish the quality of the competition so you can speculate on who is worth the money. Their wages are known to those who matter. You, the press and I are not those people. ‘Like it or lump it’ is not how you run a business.

            • October 22nd 2017 @ 2:30am
              Mighty one said | October 22nd 2017 @ 2:30am | ! Report

              Disclose your wage then plus bank account balance/ value of properties your own/ investments/super balances etc etc then- You expect players to do this so it should not be any problem for you to do the same then.

      • October 18th 2017 @ 3:25pm
        no one in particular said | October 18th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Annual reports of australian companies have to disclose remuneration of directors and key employees. I’d say players in a club are key employees

        • Roar Guru

          October 19th 2017 @ 11:10am
          Nat said | October 19th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          ASX Listed companies and board level and company execs only. Not the blokes who make the products. They can simply be listed as $9.2m in wages.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 2:50pm
          Mushi said | October 19th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

          I think the key employees test has a threshold miles above the top paid NRL player.

          I remember Westpac years ago umming and erring about a guy paid 5m meeting the threshold

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 11:24am
      ScottWoodward.me said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

      Hi Adam,
      Enjoyed your article mate; no doubt Third Party Deals are a cancer on our game.
      I would doubt that the RLPA would like their players personal finances being made public, not many people would.
      What could be palatable is that each club made their total players salary figure public, like they do with membership numbers. That at least would show fans which clubs are under or over the cap on spending. The same could apply to TPD.

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