Rugby League Planet

By Matthew Brown, Date: 17/3/14

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking of how NRL and Super League players sign contracts when they’re off contract at the end of the season. In recent weeks and months we’ve heard numerous individuals who have already signed contracts for 2015 when they haven’t even finished their current contract at their current club. Individuals such as Sam burgess, Sonny Bill Williams and Andrew Fifita have signed contracts with clubs (and sports) when they haven’t even finished their current contracts with their current clubs! I’m going to outline the pros and cons of this issue and explain why Rugby League as a whole (not just clubs) need a transfer window!
What is a transfer window?

For those who don’t know what a transfer window is it is effectively a period of time (once maybe twice each calendar year) where players/coaches/officials’ contracts are sold and bought within a specific time frame. They cannot sign a contract outside of that time and clubs can only sell or buy new contracts within that time period.

In the current climate Rugby League has what is known as a Free Market system. This is when basically anything goes and players can be signed at any time or place when they are off contract.

Positives of the current “Free Market” system.
There are a few obvious reasons why players and clubs like the “free market” approach of signing contracts. Firstly for a club, they can approach players, coaches and staff whenever they like and not have to wait an entire 6 to 12 months with signing players. They can prepare for a new year without the hassle of waiting for an individual to sign with their club. Players and coaches like it because once they sign a contract they know they are guaranteed a job for the following year and don’t have to worry about it by having time to prepare for their new home.

Fans also can get excited knowing that they are getting new players for the next season which could help drive up membership of a particular club.

Negatives of the current “Free Market” system.
Although there may be positives to the current system in place, there are some negatives to it as well. Some include;

– Morale of a team- Teams have the potential to lose morale knowing that one of their teammates or coaches won’t be with them the next season. It can affect a team’s performance if a player all of a sudden signs with a rival team halfway through the system.

– Performance of a Team- Similar to morale, the performance of a side can also occur when a player signs midseason for another club. If a player knows that they are not going to be at a club the next season, it can affect a team’s cohesion and performance during the season. For example; if a side has a strong chance to make the top 4, then one of their players announces they are switching sides next season, it can influence a sense of uneasiness in a side and affect their performance which is not fair on the team.

– Players switching codes- This is another big issue, if a player switches codes the next season it is a blight on the game. This is a major problem because not one club or team is affected, but the sport as a whole! Not only is a club going to let go one of their superstars, but the sport of Rugby League has lost one of its players to a rival code. This is always a great loss because the skills that an individual has learned in Rugby League are being lost to other sport which is a shame.

The Verdict?
At the moment I believe that a Transfer window is desperately needed! It’s not fair on fans, players and clubs that they can lose their players and staff in a heartbeat. It seriously does affect a team’s morale and performance during a season when a player is signed to a rival code or club! It hurts when players do well for a particular club and can right out of left field be approached from a rival team and made an offer.

What makes it worse is when our superstars sign for opposing codes! Players such as Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall and numerous others have been signed to Union when they still have contracts with NRL clubs! There is NOTHING NRL/Super League clubs and fans can do but be felt disappointed and betrayed because we know that eventually we have lost a great player to a rival code!
I understand the positives of the current code and how convenient it is for players and officials to sort out their futures, however I believe that the pros of a Transfer System far outweigh the cons!

So how can a Transfer Market Change all of this?

There are numerous positives which will occur is ALL professional competitions (not just the NRL but the Super League, French Elite etc) decided to implement a GLOBAL transfer market. This can include;

– Loyalty to contracts- Players and officials will be more loyal to their contracts that they sign. Although there may be speculation that a play is not happy at a club, the issues of their place at the club will be dealt with AFTER the Rugby League season has finished!

– No conflict of interest- Another positive is that a team’s performance during the season does not have to be compromised for 1 player or official’s actions! The team can focus 100% on the season knowing that any issues or concerns between individuals and their club will be dealt with after the season has finished. Therefore this minimizes effects of the team’s game.

– Less likely for players to switch codes- Believe it or not a transfer market will help keep superstars in our game! By having a Transfer Market, big Union clubs cannot approach Rugby League players until the end of the season! This will stop players signing for a rival code midseason or while they are currently on contract with a Rugby League club. They will instead have to sign with them once the season is over!

The main objectives of a Transfer market is effectively harm minimization! That means that it helps create an equal playing field which does not affect a team’s performance or morale halfway through a sporting season. Rugby League players and executives will honour contracts far greater than they currently do!

A Free Market approach IS NOT THE ANSWER and a Transfer Market will help a lot more than what we currently have!

I understand the points of arguments individuals have for the current ‘free market’ system…however I believe that it is not fair to the fans, players and clubs to suffer and watch their team be affected by what has happened from external influences to their team!