Revealed: RLPA’s $300m olive branch to end NRL pay war

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The players’ union has given the NRL the green light to amass $300 million in assets as part of its final proposal to end rugby league’s long-running pay war.

In the most significant concession after months of wrangling, the Rugby League Players Association has tabled a deal to Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo which will allow the game to safeguard its future.

Under the settlement plan, players won’t share in any above forecast revenue until the NRL secures an asset base of $300m, or at the end of the fourth year (2026) of the new agreement.

It essentially will allow the NRL to use any extra revenue it generates above projections to build a suite of assets, such as Brisbane’s five-star Gambaro Hotel it bought last year in a reported $25 million deal.

The venue is on the city’s famous Caxton Street and just a few hundred metres from Suncorp Stadium.

The RLPA announced on Wednesday it had sent a final settlement proposal to V’landys and Abdo after former Fairfax Media and News Corporation executive Brett Clegg wrote to club bosses last month expressing frustration with the glacial negotiations.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo, collective bargaining agreement facilitator Brett Clegg and Rugby League Players’ Association boss Clint Newton.

Clegg was brought in last year as a facilitator between the NRL and RLPA, replacing former Nine Entertainment Co boss Hugh Marks, who left the role to concentrate on business interests. Nine Entertainment Co is the publisher of this masthead.

The players’ union settlement was sent just a day after V’landys and Abdo returned from Las Vegas on a fact-finding mission before a potential double-header to open next year’s NRL season.

The RLPA’s financial concession comes at the same time it said it had no more room to move on the player contracting model, the other contentious issue which has divided the parties.

This masthead revealed the players’ union has proposed to gag club officials and coaches from publicly commenting on potential signings when a player was under contract to another franchise and put in safeguards to help development clubs such as Penrith, Parramatta and Brisbane.

The stronger anti-tampering rules would also prevent players or their agents holding any talks with a rival club until November 1 in the player’s final contracted year, while also setting rules to avoid the ugly Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith signing sagas.

But the $300 million revenue concession will be a huge step to brokering CBA peace with the players’ union likely to get a favourable outcome on player wellbeing initiatives it has fought for such as injury hardship and medical retirement funds.

The RLPA has also conceded it will reduce the total player payment pools if the game’s revenue drops by more than $10 million under forecast in any year, a scenario which has never happened outside COVID-19.

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