Council imposes salary cap and grills Lindsay

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
The Rugby League Council spent nine and a half hours yesterday deciding to stop clubs overspending on players - and that its chief executive had not been guilty of doing so through his expenses.

The game has approved the imposition of a salary cap for next season, limiting clubs to spending 50 per cent of their projected income on players' wages.

The meeting also accepted Maurice Lindsay's assurances that his expenses for the past two years, adding up to pounds 100,000, were all above board.

"I was very disappointed that someone was trying to take something completely out of context," Lindsay said of the accusations of extravagance.

"I was happy to assure Council that during that period I was flying back and forward to Australia and I make no apology for it. The figure of pounds 100,000 is quoted, but that includes pounds 30,000 for a new Jaguar. I like travelling in a Jaguar and I don't think the chief executive of the Rugby Football League should catch the 33 bus."

Lindsay also referred to a figure of pounds 800 quoted for the hire of videos at his London hotel.

"I don't know what they refer to, but if I stop in and watch a film it is probably cheaper than going out for a drink in London."

The chairman of the League, Sir Rodney Walker, said: "The clubs agreed to draw a line under the past."

But it must be a concern for Lindsay that, even if the source of the story was what he called "mischievous" it appeared yesterday, of all days, in a paper owned by News Corporation, which has an pounds 87m investment in the game.

The clubs have decided that less of that money will go to players in future. "The clubs have recognised that they need to contain their expenditure on salaries," said Sir Rodney, who insisted that the restriction would be policed even if some clubs might have to be allowed some leeway as they tried to reduce their wage bill in the first year.

Clubs will also be limited to 25 full-time professional players, which should, in theory, release some to strengthen the weaker sides and even help in the formation of new clubs.

Existing clubs have accepted the principle of bringing new clubs from outside traditional rugby league areas into Super League before the end of the current News Corporation contract in three years' time. In 1999 all existing clubs will, in effect, have to apply for their places and be assessed anew on their suitability.

Other decisions included the adoption of a new structure for the board of directors to include a full-time financial director, two non-executive directors - the name of Richard Branson has already been muted - and representatives elected by the First and Second Division clubs and by Super League.

Those changes will be widely seen as diluting Lindsay's power, but he was not treating them as a defeat yesterday.

"This structure is what I expected to be adopted and there is really very little difference between it and the board of directors' own version," he said.