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Sonny boy case could change salary cap rules -

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Sonny boy case could change salary cap rules

The World Today - Tuesday, 29 July , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: He's been portrayed as a selfish, greedy footballer.

But could Sonny Bill Williams be a trailblazer for radical change across Australia's four football
codes?

The Fairfax newspapers are reporting that the star who walked out on the Bulldogs is planning to go
to the courts to tackle Rugby League's salary cap system.

If he's successful, that could end the salary cap systems that keep a cap on pay in Australian
Rules, Soccer as well as Union and League.

And that could send poorer clubs to the wall.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: After all the drama off the field, it should have been a relief for the Bulldogs last
night to get back to playing rugby league.

COMMENTATOR: Here they come led by Andrew Ryan, what a 48 hours it has been, what a test of
character this is.

SIMON SANTOW: But without their star Sonny Bill Williams, Canterbury was never competitive with
rivals St George.

COMMENTATOR 2: Looses the ball and reaching out Josh Morris might have got it down for a Dragon's
try.

SIMON SANTOW: Williams' next move is sorting out some unrelated visa problems so he can make the
dash from London to the South of France and begin his new life as an even higher paid Rugby Union
player with Toulon.

The NRL and the Bulldogs have already begun legal action to try and prevent him from playing in
France.

And Fairfax newspapers are reporting that Sonny Bill Williams is planning his own action in the
courts back here.

This one is designed to challenge the whole salary cap system.

A system in operation in Rugby League and in all the major football codes in Australia but absent
from the rich club rugby competition in Europe.

Matthew Rodwell is the Chief Executive of the Rugby League Players Association.

MATTHEW RODWELL: There's always room for improvement within the salary cap and this may well be the
catalyst for change, I think it's a watermark period for the game, I think it's a fascinating
period where the future direction of Rugby League in Australia will be tested and there needs to be
some serious thought given about the strategy in future direction of the game.

SIMON SANTOW: Brendan Schwab is his soccer counterpart.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Professional Footballers Association says not all salary caps
operate in the same way.

BRENDAN SCHWAB: We think the salary caps played an important role in providing a competitive
competition so that each team has a chance to succeed and in growing the interest in the sport and
over the medium-term, that certainly promotes player payments.

The levels of the salary cap are set out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that we have with
Football Federation Australia, in addition to prescribing a maximum amount, there's also a number
of very important exclusions including a marque player and a youth marque player which enable clubs
to spend substantial amounts outside the salary cap to retain outstanding players.

SIMON SANTOW: So it's not really a case of one salary cap size fits all, there are different
versions of it operating in the different sports in Australia.

BRENDAN SCHWAB: Absolutely and I think that it's important that in each case that the salary cap
rules are negotiated with the players association to take into account the particular requirements
of each sport.

I think if Sonny Bill Williams legal team was to launch an action on the salary cap, that would not
necessarily follow that salary caps themselves would automatically be deemed unlawful by the court.
That would be a ruling that would apply to the National Rugby League and of course in Rugby League
in the early 90's there was a case which brought down aspects of the player draft rules in Rugby
League but since then, the AFL have successfully implemented it's own version a player draft for 15
years.

SIMON SANTOW: But Rugby League players say the cap is far from perfect, it survives because there's
no credible alternative and they'd like to see better pay on offer.

Matthew Rodwell;

MATTHEW RODWELL: At 16 teams, about 400 or so players are employed, if the salary cap was to be
scrapped and teams are left to fend to their own devices and their own funding, the number of teams
could drop, the number of players actually playing the game at the elite level could drop, so there
has to be some caution and some wariness about the ramifications involved with challenging the
salary cap and receiving a judgement that indeed it's a restrain of trade and unlawful.

SIMON SANTOW: So indeed the richest players would just get richer?

MATTHEW RODWELL: Quite possibly, certainly there would be a smaller number of teams because as
we're well aware, a large proportion of the 16 clubs are doing it tough financially at the moment,
now if the salary cap was scrapped and other clubs can pay more to their players, the more
financial clubs, obviously they're going to attract the better players in the competition, reward
them more financially to the detriment of the other clubs.

And the other clubs with no players, no success on the field, no financial or corporate backing you
know will dwindle and you're quite right, the elite players will be paid more to the detriment of,
from other players.

ELEANOR HALL: Matthew Rodwell from the Rugby League Players Association ending that report from
Simon Santow.