In the first major rugby news of the year, Rugby Australia have splashed the cash in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement which will see pay increases for Super Rugby, Rugby Sevens and female players.
The deal sees an increase in the squad sizes of Super Rugby teams, and an increase in the salary cap to accommodate, more than likely to offset, the demise of the Western Force and the 30 players who were left without contracts by rehousing the better ones across the four remaining franchises. Although it still sort of feels like most of the Force squad just ended up going to the Rebels.
Female players will now earn the same as their male counterparts on the sevens circuit, and will be paid for Test appearances for the first time. However, at this stage, there are still no plans to pay players competing in the soon to be launched Super W competition which seems, well, amateur.
Rugby is a contact sport and players – at the elite levels especially – put their bodies on the line. If the Super W competition generates so much as a dollar of revenue from advertising or broadcasts – and I plan to watch it if I can – then that dollar must be divided up between the stakeholders, with the players getting a cut of it.
The new CBA cuts players (the ones who are getting paid) in on 29 percent of revenue – about the same as Australia’s cricketers get under their new deal.
While it’s great for the players involved and for those Force players who had the rug pulled from under them, like anything with Rugby Australia caution should be exercised whenever money is spent.
Bear in mind that the justification for cutting the Force was supposedly because running the fifth franchise was sending the game broke, and the money saved would, in turn, be funnelled into grassroots development so maybe one day we wouldn’t lose to the New Zealand-based teams every single time.
Since the axing of the Force, the only noteworthy news items out of HQ, with the exception of Raelene Castle replacing Bill Pulver and anything related to Karmichael Hunt, have been this pay deal and the completely unnecessary (and incredibly expensive) re-brand from the Australian Rugby Union to Rugby Australia. Neither of which really align with the promises and reasoning behind the Force decision.
The re-brand reeks of the corporate equivalent of entering the witness protection program. Change the name and the logo and hopefully leave all of your troubles behind.
“Aren’t you that organisation that haemorrhages money and couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery?”
“Oh my, no, you’re thinking of the Australian Rugby Union. We’re Rugby Australia – see, it says so right there on the sign.”
2017 was the darkest of times for the game in this country since rugby went professional – possibly ever. 2018 needs to bloody good.
The new CBA is a good one for all parties, though in time I’d like to see the maximum Super Rugby squad sizes come back down again – the whole point of cutting the fifth team was because the talent was spread too thin and we were paying too many guys who weren’t really good enough. Wasn’t it? No, wait. It was for development. Or because they were sending us broke. Or was it that we needed that cash for other stuff like the re-brand?
Anyway, with the ARU – *ahem* – sorry, Rugby Australia, always question everything.
On to 2018, where the game of rugby rises like a phoenix! Or burns like a phoenix.