Win-win for players and NRL under new deal
Rugby League Players Association CEO, Ian Prendergast, has welcomed the announcement of an historic collective bargaining agreement which will deliver the best deal to players in the game's history.
Speaking alongside NRL CEO Todd Greenberg at Rugby League Central, the pair outlined a raft of changes that will give players greater powers, while the game's governing body will also be handed greater authority when it comes to monitoring behaviour they might deem suspicious.
The $980 million deal - which will see players receive a 29.5 per cent share of forecast game revenue - will deliver extra funding for the player retirement fund for players forced into early retirement due to injury, a world-class wellbeing and education program, and guaranteed leave entitlements.
As part of the new deal, the NRL will have greater powers to monitor the integrity of the game, which might include forcing players to hand over sensitive information such as phone records or bank statements.
"I think when you talk partnership, there's responsibility that comes with that," Prendergast said at Rugby League Central on Friday morning.
"We have an interest in protecting the game because if we put that at risk then the livelihood of our players is also at risk. They understand that it's necessary, therefore, for the NRL to have powers in that sense.
"We've got comfort around how those powers will now be used in relation to the pointy end of integrity risks that we need to manage appropriately so the players are comfortable with those rights that they've provided the NRL under this arrangement."
Greenberg added that the players understood the need for the game to stay on top of things like match-fixing and other issues that could affect the integrity of the sport, but stressed the measures would only be used if necessary.
"I think we'll act appropriately and professionally, and they're issues that I hope we don't have to use," Greenberg said.
"In a partnership model there are obligations on the players, so I thought that was an adult conversation.
"These powers aren't too dissimilar to what a lot of other sports have, but they're important to us to protect the integrity of the sport, and that's why they're there. It was a good discussion, and I think the players understand the ability of the game to protect the sport, which ultimately protects them.
"If there's a reasonable assumption or suspicion from us that we need to delve deeper into a player's records, then we can do that.
"It's not the sort of power we'd be using every week; in fact, I'd very rarely use it, I would think…in fact I'd hope I'd never have to. But if we have to, we can."
The RLPA has welcomed the decision, with Prendergast confident both parties can work co-operatively under the new arrangement.
"We're talking about the pointy integrity issues within the game in terms of corruption, match-fixing and serious breaches of the salary cap," he said.
"There's then a process the NRL would work through in requesting information from that player. We're really comfortable with the fact those powers have been ring-fenced appropriately and we have trust with the individuals involved in terms of how they'd be used, if necessary.
"If there's somebody who falls into that situation then we want to make sure that we're not only stopping those circumstances, but in relation to everything we've agreed to, it's about getting ahead of these issues and taking a preventative approach.
"We do that through education, we do that through empowering the players to understand those risks and how to manage the situations they find themselves in, regardless of what rules and regulations may be in place."