The Guardian September 10, 2003


NRL board cancels award night ceremony

Rugby League's annual awards ceremony, the Dally M Awards, will not take 
place this year as a result of the intransigence of the News Ltd-controlled 
National Rugby League (NRL) in negotiations with the players' union.

The demands of the Rugby League Professionals' Association (the players' 
union) include:

* the right to a minimum wage for all players under contract. The NRL clubs 
want to decide who gets a minimum wage at the end of the season;

* protection of entitlements where a club folds. Players from Auckland, 
North Sydney, South Queensland and the Northern Eagles are still owed 
money;

* players' rights to use their intellectual property  subject to 
safeguards for NRL sponsors;

* indemnity of contracts against clubs going broke;

* a death clause. The NRL rejected the players' proposal that it should pay 
out two year's wages if a player is killed on the job;

* a choice of superannuation funds.

Rugby League players had voted to boycott the Dally M Awards if the NRL 
failed to make meaningful progress towards a collective agreement to 
provide security for all players by the end of last week.

Only the wage claim was agreed to by the NRL.

The Rugby League Professionals' Association President Tony Butterfield 
said, "We needed reasonable, meaningful progress on a number of issues. To 
go back to the players and say, "we have progressed on one [issue], we'll 
accept that': that was never going to be the case".

Not taken lightly

Members of the RLPA said the boycott decision had not been taken lightly, 
but that a strong message had to be sent to the businessmen running the 
game that the players were serious about achieving basic rights.

"The Dally M Awards celebrate the game's history and are a great night out 
for players and their partners," said Tony Butterfield.

"By forgoing this night, players are sending the public a message that if 
we don't protect young players, there won't be a game to celebrate into the 
future.

"We have made a conscious decision to protect [the players] in a way that 
minimises the impact on fans, but people need to be aware that we are 
serious about securing an agreement that protects all players.

"The elite players have nothing personally to gain from this agreement. We 
are taking this stand on behalf of the young players entering the code and 
for the future of the game".

The RLPA gave the NRL a deadline of last Friday to make progress on their 
offer, but the NRL instead, announced the cancellation of the award night.

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