Rugby league’s independent commission has been given its strongest endorsement to date, with all 16 NRL clubs agreeing to sign club licences with the new ARL commission on Tuesday.
In the strongest sign yet that rugby league will soon be independent, the eight commissioners were given a vote of confidence by all the NRL clubs, who agreed the commission is the right vehicle to take rugby league into the next era.
Following a meeting at NRL headquarters between representatives from all 16 clubs and the commissioners, Wests Tigers director Dave Trodden confirmed the clubs had agreed unanimously to sign licences to compete for the next seven years.
This happened after clubs accepted a cash injection believed to be worth $500,000 to be delivered once the new TV broadcast rights deal is put in place, expected to be midway through next season.
Clubs had previously baulked at signing any agreement unless they were given a $2.1 million grant.
But Trodden said the funding debate was no longer an issue,
“The clubs have obvious concerns about their financial stability and it was necessary for them to raise issues about their financial stability with commissioners and with other stakeholders in the game,” Trodden told reporters afterwards.
“But today they’ve left the meeting with the commissioners more convinced than ever that the commissioners are the right people to take us into the next era of the game.”
Both Trodden and NRL chief executive David Gallop were cagey when asked to put an exact date on when the commission would become fully operational.
Gallop is adamant it will be in place for the start of the 2012 NRL season in March, while both were pleased one significant hurdle was no longer an issue.
“It’s probably not for me to put a date on the commencement of the commission,” Trodden said.
“But it’s important to note that the club agreements are now in place and there’s one less impediment for the commission to happen.”
Gallop said he didn’t expect the drawn out process to affect the NRL’s negotiating power when it came to generating the most money from rugby league’s new broadcast deal.
“Not necessarily, I think there will still be plenty of time to do the right deal for the game,” Gallop said.
“I think it may take a bit of time once the process starts, but I remain optimistic that the game is well placed to do a tremendous TV deal.”
The new broadcast deal is expected to bring with it a huge injection of funds, which Gallop said would help further reduce the gap between the annual club grant and the salary cap.
At the moment the disparity between the grant ($3.85 million) and the cap ($4.3 million) is $450,000.
“We’ve certainly worked over a long period of time to close the gap between the grant and the salary cap,” Gallop said.
“We’ve got to keep that as a goal. If we do that, our clubs will be in a financial position, our players will be sharing the rewards of the game and the game will be set up right for the future.”