OPINION: RFL – Central Contracts

The development of centralised RFL contracts or incentivised pay seems to be a hot topic at the moment within the Rugby League community. A topic that is probably as intriguing as it is frustrating for the most. Intriguing as it sounds like a great step forward by the RFL in ensuring the best English players are retained in the Super League competition, rather than moving to the NRL or Rugby Union. However, with most things involving Rugby League, it’s frustrating due to the sports inability to actually declare what it is before it’s been leaked or before it’s been criticised – the sport really is its own worst enemy at the best of times.On what should potentially be a ground-breaking initiative that would be applauded by the many, we are yet again left scratching our heads at the ability for the governing body to mismanage the announcement so much, that has left many questions unanswered – the biggest question mark revolving around the transparency of the initiative.

On what should potentially be a ground-breaking initiative that would be applauded by the many, we are yet again left scratching our heads at the ability for the governing body to mismanage the announcement so much, that has left many questions unanswered – the biggest question mark revolving around the transparency of the initiative.

St Helens announced earlier this week that they had re-signed Jonny Lomax for another two years, who in turn, would become an RFL ambassador to compliment his salary. There had been, earlier in the year, rumours that some players were already benefitting from such an arrangement in which a player’s salary would be topped up by becoming an RFL representative. The lack of transparency of this, again left most frustrated – who is that player or players and does that make their club have an unfair advantage in terms of the salary cap. For example, if that player was Sam Tomkins, who at the same time as being a Marquee Player could have been an RFL Ambassador, despite (and no fault of Sam Tomkins) having not played for England since 2014. I am not suggesting that this is the case, but it’s a good example of how other teams could view such an arrangement.

Lomax for example, injured for the majority of this season and despite being England’s fullback in last years Four Nations, he is no guarantee on being so again this for the World Cup – or in the squad even. The form of Zak Hardaker, Jamie Shaul and return of Sam Tomkins means that there is plenty of competition for places. However, does Lomax’s new position as an employee of the RFL make him a guarantee to be on the plane to Australia – surely not but then again, if I was Haraker, Shaul or Tomkins – I would be looking for some reassurances.

So many unanswered questions and when The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/26/rfl-central-contracts-super-league-jonny-lomax-st-helens) asked the RFL for comment, their reply was:

“The Rugby Football League stated at the beginning of the year that retaining the best talent in the Super League was a priority and it has introduced a range of measures to help do this including an increase to the salary cap and changes to the marquee player rule.

“The Rugby Football League is in discussions with some players about becoming centrally contracted with the organisation and these discussions continue. Any centrally contracted player must be eligible for England selection and would take part in a number of additional commercial and marketing activities to help promote the sport.

“The panel for selection of the players will consist of members of the senior executive of the Rugby Football League and will also include the rugby director, Kevin Sinfield, with input from the England Rugby League coaching team.

“Full details of this process, the criteria for selection and those players who are centrally contracted will be announced in due course.”

In short, a great idea but one that currently appears flawed in trying to be progressive. Transparency is needed and quickly before more players commit to such contracts should be provided. Particularly on the limit of such contracts per club and does, every club get a contract for a player? For example, and no disrespect to Wakefield, but who would their contracted player be? Ben Jones-Bishop, Tom Johnstone? Widnes – again the same question. Will other clubs like Wigan, who have a greater number of England players than most be at an advantage due to a player (s) being paid outside the salary cap. Likewise, if its limited to one player per club and let’s say, George Williams is the Wigan player selected; how would Bateman, Farrell, O’Loughlin, Burgess, Tomkins etc feel about that?

Too many questions and not enough answers. The proverbial piss up in a brewery comes to mind.

 

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