Rugby League: Lindsay calls for wage cap

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The Independent Online
PLAYERS face a 20 per cent wage cut as the game tries to balance its books and prove that it is a deserving case for Government aid.

The Rugby League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, said yesterday that he had had a sympathetic hearing from the sports minister, Iain Sproat, when he argued last week that the game needs cash help.

Ground safety measures have cost the code pounds 13m and could cost a further pounds 8m, he said. 'We have suffered because of football's ills and we have reached the point where it is a case of can't pay, won't pay.'

Lindsay added that the game had suffered at the hands of over-zealous local councils, and police authorities which levied charges out of all proportion to rugby league's virtually non-existent crowd problems of crowd behaviour.

'Mr Sproat agrees that rugby league has been treated unfairly,' he said. 'I hope that the Government will find a way to help us financially.'

The bad news for players came in Lindsay's admission that the pleas for help would only be successful if the code put its own house in order. He plans to table proposals for a salary cap in time for next season and to use it to attack the gap between the game's earnings and expenditure.

'Cutting back wages by 20 per cent would balance the books,' he said. 'Players might not like it but they are going to have to come into the real world. They have had a good run and a lot of them will still be wealthy men even with a cut of 20 per cent.'

Lindsay said that income from sponsorship, television and, contrary to some suspicions, attendances had all risen. But at a total of pounds 20m income still lags pounds 2m behind outgoings. Half of that pounds 22m goes in wages and Lindsay compared players to yuppies who had been forced to relinquish their Porsches.

Away from financial matters, Lindsay conceded that the Centenary World Cup in 1995 will have its dates changed if the rugby union World Cup is switched from South Africa to Britain. Rugby league's tournament is scheduled for October and November that year, but Lindsay gave the clearest indication that it will not try to compete if South African unrest brings union's World Cup to Britain at the same time.

'We would have to realise immediately that it would be sheer folly to have two tournaments side by side,' he said, dismaying those who believe the code should be self-confident enough to press on regardless. 'We have to be pragmatic. It is a fool that goes to war with too few soldiers.'