V’landys warning: NRL players face pay cut
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has warned the code's top stars to brace for pay cuts, with the possible suspension of the premiership set to destroy around $10 million of the NRL's cash reserves.
The development comes as V'landys investigates the prospect of relocating more than 400 NRL players to Central Queensland in the event the coronavirus pandemic forces a full-scale lockdown of Australian society.
The Rugby League Players Association says cutting player wages is a last-resort measure but concedes that may yet happen if the COVID-19 outbreak forces a breach of the NRL's $1.8 billion broadcast deal.
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The Courier-Mail can reveal the code had accrued approximately $10 million in a ledger account, a pool of surplus funds to be shared between the players, the NRL, the state bodies and the 16 clubs at the end of the current CBA deal in 2022.
But the coronavirus crisis will almost certainly cripple the ledger funds.
The RLPA is prepared to first forfeit fringe benefits, such as prizemoney and representative payments, but V'landys says NRL player salaries are not immune to the worst health and financial crisis in the code's history.
Asked if NRL players face pay cuts in the coming weeks and months to keep the sport alive, V'landys was unequivocal.
"Absolutely," he said.
"If the game can't afford to pay the bills, what else can we do? We will have to look at cutting player wages.
"Look, it's not the sole cure. We are all in this together, so we all have to do something.
"We would look to avoid that (slashing player wages), but we made the financial agreement together and we have to make sacrifices together.
"If we keep the broadcast revenues coming in, we won't have as big a hit, but if the broadcast revenue stops, that's when we would have the big hit and things would change for the players.
"We'll see how long we can hang on before it affects the players."
RLPA boss Clint Newton believes there are several layers of protection for NRL players. They are entitled to a quarter of the code's current ledger surplus, which would amount to a financial sacrifice of $2.5 million.
The players would also give up $6.12 million in retirement-account payments, $3 million in injury-hardship entitlements, and almost $5 million in Origin and Test bonuses before the ARLC looks to deduct individual salaries.
Newton is hopeful the RLPA can avoid a player-wage hit if the NRL premiership can play on through the coronavirus crisis.
"All the other options will be explored before we look at a reduction in player salaries," he said.
"At this stage, the NRL have not proposed a wage cut, but should there be an inability to fulfil our obligations to broadcasters then, yes, it (wage cutting) may be the case.
"Should any type of reduction be considered and proposed, our stance is that player wages would be the last thing that would be cut."
V'landys has not ruled out shifting all 16 NRL teams to Gladstone to a village-style compound that features 1392 rooms, but says it's a secondary option at this stage.
"I suggested Gladstone as one option," he said.
"At this stage, it's not the top option from what I can understand. The initial advice is for the players to stay in their natural environment as long as we can keep social interaction to a minimum."