COVID-19 and a ‘historic Collective Bargaining Agreement’: Why the NRL should enforce pay cuts on players

BY CURTIS WOODWARD – EDITOR

@woodward_curtis

Three years ago the NRL and the RLPA signed a historic Collective Bargaining Agreement which made the players partners in the game.

The NRL didn’t swing the doors of Fort Knox wide open but they did give the players a spare key for the backdoor.

At the time, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said it was the start of a genuine partnership between the NRL and RLPA.

“For the first time, our players will receive a 29.5% share of forecast game revenue, as well as a share of any out-performance revenue,” Greenberg said.

“In other words, the better the game performs, the more the players will receive.

“And players will share in any financial out-performance at the same time and on the same basis as grassroots and Clubs – a true partnership to take the game forward.”

A true partnership.

Here we are in 2020 and a pandemic nobody saw coming.

The coronavirus has buckled the world and it appears we’re yet to see the worst of it here in Australia.

Should the NRL play on?

What happens if the competition is suspended or shut down completely?

Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake thinks the players should be paid whether they’re playing or not.

“I feel as though if you sign a contract and the contract says you paid X-amount, you’re owed X-amount, the agreement should be met by both parties,” Fonua-Blake said on Tuesday.

“If you’re fully fit and you’re able to play, in my opinion, you should be getting paid.

“The outcome of this is unfortunate but if you’re still meeting your requirements in your contract, I reckon you should still be getting what’s owed to you.”

If not for that darned CBA.

You know the one, Addin. The one which states you guys are ‘true partners’ in the game. That means if everybody else suffers – you suffer too.

It would also help if some of these players actually read their own contracts when they signed on.

Greenberg revealed on Monday at a press conference that there was a ‘material adverse change provision’ in players’ contracts.

“Let me be really clear. No one is saying at the moment that players are taking pay cuts. That’s not what we’re saying,” Greenberg said.

“What we’re saying is, in the funding agreements with every constituent in the game, when the revenues drop there’s an ability for us to renegotiate some of those deals.

“We’re not suggesting at the moment that’s what we’re doing, we’re saying that’s what’s in our contracts.

“Of course everyone’s looking to tighten their belt. We are looking in the central administration where we can stop costs, save costs, and we’re doing all of those things as you would expect, and as I would expect all 16 clubs would be doing right now too.”

Grassroots competitions have been suspended until further notice.

Not only does it mean that kids across the country don’t get to play but the battling clubs they play for aren’t bringing in any sources of revenue either.

Everybody is going to be crippled by this.

And that should include first grade players.

Wade Graham also fronted the media to talk COVID-19.

“If you’re an established player, and you’ve done the right thing with your money, you’re sitting OK,” Graham said.

Could a tiny Queensland town of just 5000 people host the entire NRL competition in their own backyard?

“But some guys are living, not pay cheque to pay cheque, but they rely so much on their income. People who work in the club are no different.

“So we need to be really smart and do what’s best for the majority of people.”

This is no ordinary situation.

The players are in the same boat as everybody else.

@woodward_curtis

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