Rugby Australia announces major pay increase for Super Rugby players

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

By Scott Pryde, Scott Pryde is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    2017 was a tumultuous year for rugby union in Australia, but 2018 has started off on a positive foot with Rugby Australia announcing a pay increase for Super Rugby players on Wednesday morning in their new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

    Under the new CBA, players will continue to earn a 29 per cent share of the professional game’s total revenue under a continuing revenue sharing model.

    The deal, which comes into effect immediately, will see the four remaining Super Rugby teams – the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Rebels – have their squad sizes increased by five and an overall pay increase of around ten per cent.

    The pay increase means contracts will average out at $225,000 in 2018, which is a big win for rugby players in Australia after the previous average sat at under $200,000.

    It means the Super Rugby salary cap increases to $5.5 million, with a 15 per cent discount built in to reward long-serving players.

    Teams will be permitted to sign between 36 and 40 players under the new agreement, but even then, the number of professional players with one less team will shrink from 175 to 160, meaning a net loss of 15 players.

    Players will also be given an extra week’s vacation, which must be taken as a block under the new deal.

    It’s also been announced that the women’s and men’s sevens teams will earn the same amount, with entry-level salaries for full-time players the same as those in Super Rugby squads.

    In another win for women, Wallaroos players will receive Test match payments for the first time in 2018. However, there was no mention of the new Super W competition in the press release sent by Rugby Australia on the new CBA. Female rugby players plying their trade for a Super W side will have their costs covererd, but won’t be paid a wage.

    Outgoing Rugby Australia CEO Bill Pulver said it was a “tough but fair negotiation” and he was happy with the outcome.

    Bill Pulver ARU CEO

    (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

    “[The negotiation] has provided an outcome that ultimately sets our game on a strong footing heading into the final three years of our current broadcast agreement,” Pulver said.

    “While we continue to invest heavily in the professional game, Rugby Australia and RUPA have worked together to ensure that the game can address the issue of funding at the community level.

    “We have struck a balance that will allow greater investment in the community game, while ensuring that our high performance programs are supported to deliver the on-field success that rugby fans demand and deserve.

    “The new CBA is the first of its kind to incorporate all professional programs, including our sevens teams and the Wallaroos, and importantly addresses key issues of pay equality and player welfare.”

    Rugby Union Players Association president Dean Mumm said it was critical to secure the new CBA.

    “With the previous CBA expiring at the end of 2017, securing this agreement has been a priority for all parties and provides the certainty and stability to put recent challenges behind us,” said Mumm.

    “This agreement allows all parties to draw a line in the sand and move forward towards a more prosperous future for Australian rugby.

    With the Super Rugby competition being reshaped and the current broadcast deal ending in 2020, it’s a short-term CBA. The previous CBA had been in effect since 2003.

    Two South African teams were cut alongside the Western Force for the 2018 season and the future of Super Rugby appears to be hanging in the balance. It’s unclear if any teams from the African nation will compete beyond the end of the current TV deal in 2020.

    The re-shaping of the competition left Rugby Australia in a position where they decided to cut the Force, with finances thought to be one of the key issues for the Western Australian club.

    At the time, Bill Pulver and Cameron Clyne both indicated there were financial issues which contributed to the decision.

    Bill Pulver Cameron Clyne press conference

    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    “We did an exhaustive analysis, a massive spreadsheet on all the variables that went into this decision,” said Pulver.

    “Some of them community-based, some of them high-performance based and frankly at the end of the day the best decision for Australian rugby was to remove the Western Force.

    “Financially, it made the most sense.”

    Chairman Cameron Clyne also spoke about the decision to save the Rebels instead of the Force.

    “There has been a lot of public support and a lot of genuine financial support from people in Melbourne that have come out,” said Clyne.

    “Whilst we do appreciate people like Andrew [Forrest] getting involved it came very late in the piece.

    “Part of the issue was the Force were virtually bankrupt and had to be bailed out.”

    2017 was an extremely difficult year for Australian Super Rugby clubs, with only the Brumbies making the finals as winners of the Australian conference and no team recording a win against any New Zealand side for the duration of the 2017 season.

    With players being split more evenly across the remaining four teams, it’s hoped they will be much more competitive in 2018.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,800 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • January 10th 2018 @ 10:43am
      BulletMwaza said | January 10th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      2017 – 200k x 5 squads x 30 players = 30.0 mill
      2018 – 225k x 4 squads x 35 players = 31.5 mill

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2018 @ 1:29pm
        jeznez said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

        It is actually:

        2017 – 200k x 5 squads x 35 players = 35 mill (175 players total)
        2018 – 225K x 4 squads x 40 players = 36 mill (160 players total)

        Doesn’t materially change the point that you and other posters below are driving at.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 10th 2018 @ 11:24pm
          Huw Tindall said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:24pm | ! Report

          Player salaries aren’t the only costs. All the extras like hotels, flighst, support staff, ground rents etc would add up to overall save on the total cost of Super Rugby in Australia.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 7:44pm
        Train Without A Station said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

        Apparently the average is based on Wallaby salaries + super salaries divided by total players.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 10:49am
      bazza200 said | January 10th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Good work for the players so they loose 15 Players which is almost 10% and then get a 12% pay rise makes sense. So the cost is not too big.

      So maybe in the future it will be Australia and New Zealand teams and pacific island teams.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 11:50am
        Ex force fan said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        Can I help you with the maths? Cutting the Force means about 30 players lost their job or 20% of the professional players By increasing the squad sizes of 4 franchises by 5 it means that they only cut 10 players or 6%. Then they pay them on average $225,000 from $200,000 which is a 12.5% increase in pay. So overall despite cutting the Force, the ARU is spending at least 6% more on less players! And that is only players.
        Then add the relocating to Moore park $20 million and the money wasted (also $20 million) on rebranding. If anyone still believes that they ARU had to cut the Force because “they could not afford it”…..Mmm then you are as confused as Pulver .
        Clyne, Eales and others must follow Pulver and go. Rugby needs competent people and not people that serve the narrow state interest at the cost of the sport.

        • January 10th 2018 @ 12:11pm
          Ex force fan said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          Scott and bazsa you could do better! This expose the ARU lies more than the money wasted on the rebranding.

          $200,000 per player X 30 player per team X 5 teams = $30 million per year (2017)
          $225,000 per player X 35 player per team X 4 teams = $31.5 million per year (2018).

          That is a 5% increase in the total pay package at a time when “had to” alienate the state of WA, drag rugby through the stinking mud to “avoid bankruptcy”! Which business rebrand and give their employees a 5% pay increase when they are on the brink of bankruptcy. Even Mmm..h and TWAS should not believe this bull anymore!

          The real reason the Force was cut is coming clear…it was all to pump more money in NSW and QLD rugby at the cost of WA. Australian rugby cannot move forward without clearing our the board and restructure the ARU. We need people to lead that are not captive to narrow state interests.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 5:50pm
            Alex Forbes said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

            ““We did an exhaustive analysis, a massive spreadsheet on all the variables that went into this decision,” said Pulver.”

            Another Spreadsheet. I wonder if they can produce this one 🙂

    • January 10th 2018 @ 11:14am
      Stu B said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      This increase will help keep more players in the fold. Interesting to see Billy and Cliner misleading the public, still talking misleading bankers double speak regarding the Force/Rebels debacle, these guys are the leading lights of where Aus rugby has gone. Real men would stand up and take responsibility for their actions not hide behind petty half truths and dishonesty.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 11:58am
      Bakkies said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      Good to see that cutting a side has led to saving money that could go on to the grassroots.

      This is occurring while the NSWRU brings in their own levy.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 12:00pm
      AndyS said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

      It will be interesting to see where the money comes from. If it is the ARU, there goes all the supposed benefit to the grass roots. If they are going to stick the increased salary cap on the SR teams, it will be a big shove down the path towards more bail-outs.

      It would be even more interesting to see how that money gets distributed, because on the face of it the numbers don’t add up. Either they are leaving something out, or it is about to start raining top-ups on the Wallabies.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 10th 2018 @ 12:12pm
      piru said | January 10th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

      Assume the dosh will be coming from the money ‘saved’ by axing the Force.

      Which of course we were told would be put into grassroots.

      But of course that was the ARU, RA is not beholden to their decisions!

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