NRL battlers have been left stunned by Brisbane chief Bruno Cullen’s declaration the Broncos have more than 20 third party deals with players.
As eyebrows continued to be raised over superstar Greg Inglis’s move from Melbourne to Brisbane, struggling clubs said they could only dream about that level of corporate support, although they are reluctant to label the NRL landscape uneven.
Cullen said the Broncos had around 20 deals ranging from $1,000 to over $25,000.
“It’s probably the easiest way to do it rather than annoy your sponsors for more money,” he told Sky Sports Radio.
Other clubs follow suit
Western Sydney battlers Penrith recently took the step in their match-day newsletter of calling for local businesses to come forward and sponsor players as they tried to stitch up deals for Michael Jennings, since completed, and Frank Pritchard.
“I’d love to have a list like that, I might ask him if there’s any left over,” Panthers chief executive Mick Leary told AAP.
“We’re in the outer west and it’s been very difficult to get third party agreements but we’re doing our best,” he said.
“It’s a reminder that we’ve all got to get out and work harder.”
Canberra have just one third party arrangement and Raiders boss Don Furner said operating in a government sector town made it difficult.
“I wish I had that is all I can say,” he told AAP.
“Without a doubt they’ve got a lot of advantages. But you’ve got to look at both sides of it – why should they be held back?”
Third party money from sources other than club sponsors is unlimited in the NRL, while sponsors will be able to pay $300,000 through the marquee player allowance in 2011.
NRL boss David Gallop said there were over $3 million in third party deals across the league.
“Having 20 would not be unusual,” he said.
“We can’t guarantee 16 green bottles on the wall that look exactly the same,” said Mr Gallop.
“It’s one of the reasons that we’ve got a salary cap in the first place and it’s there to distribute talent as evenly as we can.”
Gallop rejected calls for players’ salaries to be made public to head off questions about how clubs could afford their players.
“Like in most workplaces in the country, people are entitled to their salary being confidential,” he said.
Cullen blasts critics
Cullen blasted those calling for Brisbane’s salary cap spending to be heavily scrutinised.
He said observers had not taken into account the movement of $1 million worth of players away from the club and changes to the cap in 2011, pointing out the club had recruited only Inglis and Ben Hannant.
The likes of Israel Folau (AFL), Ashton Sims and Antonio Winterstein (both North Queensland) will depart at the end of this season.
“We still have some change left over,” he said.
“Broncos sponsors, fans and corporate supporters should be extremely confident that the club has followed the rules to the letter of the law.”