Daniel Nichols – Fines Not Deterring Salary Cap Breaches

Another end-of-season, another round of clubs fines for breaching the salary cap. This time it was Sea Eagles, Knights, Roosters, Tiger and Tigers named as offenders.

The breaches date back to the 2013 season, and the Titans aside, seem like minor offenses at worst. For instance the Tigers over spent on their Holden Cup cap, which hardly equates to a Melbourne-like scandal.

What is worrying however, is the fact the NRL Minor Premiers and Premiers were amongst the teams fined.

Although there has been no suggestion that the Roosters ‘cheated the cap’, it’s not a good look that a fine has been handed down to the all conquering Bondi-based side.

Cap breaches occur in a variety of ways, and don’t only affect the well performing sides. A few years back, incredibly, the Sharks were fined heavily due to salary cap breaches, despite an unsuccessful season.

Breaches can occur due to unforeseen rep payments, bonuses, or simple minor overspends.

The fact that teams continue to cop these fines perhaps proves that these fines are not a strong enough deterrent to stop them from going over the salary cap.

As I read it, the salary cap is the maximum spend number allowed, and anyone spending above the cap has enabled themselves an unfair advantage.

In terms of cap breaches, none are more well known, and serious, as the Storm scandal that saw them stripped of two premierships, three minor premierships and barred from playing for points in 2010. They of course finished last, having not registered any points.

The difference between the Storm offense and those that led to fines is that the Storm were systematically rorting the caps by lying about player payments. The five teams fined for their 2013 goings on look like mistakes.

The Titans were hit the hardest after being fined $300,000 ($75,000 of which was suspended) and hit with a suspended four competition point penalty, to come into effect should they offend again.

I think it’s fair to say that the fact five teams were over the cap in 2013 proves that the fines simply aren’t enough of a deterrent.

It’s my belief that competition point penalties would lead to a drop in in salary cap breaches.

Simply put, if you’re going to start the next season in the negative, you’re behind the eight ball from the get go, something no team can afford.

Obviously there are occasions where fines are enough. For instance, the Bunnies heading into 2014 would have had no idea that they would see Alex Johnston eligible for rep bonuses, having not made his debut into well into the 2014 season.

If this was to put them over their cap, that’s understandable.

For the Titans to have paid Scott Prince more than what his contract stated, that’s a serious breach and should incur a competition point penalty.

The fact that the Titans came forward with the information likely lead to their suspended points sentence, however it’s worrying that they had to come forward for the breach to be uncovered.

I’m not saying any team out there is intentionally cheating the cap, however surely harsher penalties would ensure this.

$1 over the cap, or $1 million over the cap, it’s still creating an unfair playing field in a sport that trumpets the the cap, and the even spread of results it provides, at every chance it gets.

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