The NRL is considering a new post-season transfer window, stopping players spending a season at one club whilst having signed for another for the next season.
Talks with the Rugby League Players’ Association are set to begin on a new collective bargaining agreement with two major focuses.
The first area which will be discussed is the salary cap and the second will be about regulating player movement as fans have been left disgruntled with the current system which sees players such as Viliame Kikau and Isaiah Papali’i spending a final year at their club before departing.
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According to the Sydney Morning Heraldthe RLPA wants to keep the current model, but the NRL believes a transfer window could work better for the competition.
One option discussed is having a single window after the grand final, giving players only weeks to make a decision and move on to their new location.
“That’s all up for debate and I don’t know where we will land,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said of the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ve put forward natural opportunities to think about the window, particularly the main one being at the end of the season. Following the grand final, having then an opportunity for players, agents and clubs to engage and interact, and have everything done in the off-season is probably what clubs are after to give teams the ability to begin their pre-season knowing what their full squad is. ”
Some would argue the single window option is not fair on players who would only have a short window to decide their future.
“There’s an option that says there’s a single window, there’s an option that says there are two windows, mid-season and at the end of the season,” Abdo said.
“There’s an option that says it’s end of season for the next season or end of season for the season after. All of these are different permutations that we will need to grapple with. ”
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Abdo explained that he believes fans are unhappy with the current system, seeing players spending another year at one club whilst being signed on elsewhere for the next.
“We hear the feedback from fans around the timing of when contracts are decided, with players playing sometimes for a full season with a club knowing full well that they are leaving,” Abdo said.
“That’s frustrating for some fans.” I also think there’s an opportunity for us to create excitement and engagement around dedicated windows where that trade can take place. “
While the NRL knows the commercial power of a trade window, clearly visible in the AFL or NFL, the RLPA is clearly opposed to the shift.
“The term commonly used in this debate is trade and transfer windows, but what we have is a fundamentally different system to US sports trades or European soccer transfers,” RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said.
“This debate is about proposing a much shorter window of time that players can secure their future. What we’re suggesting is that the NRL alter the current free agency policy. Free agency is very different to trade and transfer windows, and an end-of-season window in the NRL would significantly restrict players who don’t have a future contract from securing one.
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“The NRL has always valued the agency of players, and the competition has continued to prosper because of the long-standing position players have held on this worker’s right. We believe in the right of free agency and we want to create a fair and equitable system with that.
“Are clubs universally aligned on this matter? I’m still to see any proof that clubs are in total alignment on this matter, which is primarily because it is complex and tears apart the employment rights of players. And even if clubs were aligned, given the unavoidable legal implications of such a chance there is no other place for this discussion except bargaining with Hugh Marks (the leading CBA negotiations for the NRL) if that’s what’s required.
“Proposing changes to the current systems is an untested quick fix at the expense of employment rights. I love horse racing and have always enjoyed the Magic Millions sales, but we are not buying Black Caviar’s or Winx’s first offspring. These are human beings with families and they need to be respected, and so do their employment rights. ”