The NRL is considering a salary cap for football department spending in a move that may impact on the amount of money clubs can pay big-name coaches such as Wayne Bennett.
NRL officials discussed the idea during the recent salary cap review and are monitoring how the amount of money each club spends on its football department translates to on-field success.
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The salary cap idea has gained renewed support within the NRL following the AFL's introduction of a "soft" cap on football department spending from next year and Bennett's decision to put himself on the market after announcing last week that he would leave Newcastle at the end of the season.
As revealed by Fairfax Media, those now running the Knights on behalf of the NRL considered $800,000 a season was too much to pay for a coach.
However, St George Illawarra are reportedly preparing to offer Bennett a $3 million, three-year deal, sparking questions from rival clubs about how the Dragons can afford to pay more than the NRL was willing to outlay for a coach after borrowing $2 million from the game's governing body.
Bennett was believed to be on $1 million a season plus bonuses when the Knights were owned by Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group, while Canterbury reportedly lured Des Hasler from Manly on a $3.5 million, four-year contract.
Club bosses claim those deals and the $850,000 a season that Parramatta outlaid for Ricky Stuart last year threaten to significantly inflate the wages of coaches in coming seasons and some have been pushing for a cap on payments to coaching staff.
An NRL spokesman confirmed the issue was under consideration but said there were no immediate plans to include coaches' wages in a salary cap.
"As part of the recent salary cap review, it was identified that the total football department spend of each club may need to be considered for a separate cap in future,” the spokesman said.
“That would potentially include the coach, head trainer, physios, trainers and other football staff. At this point we have decided not to include them in the salary cap – it will continue to be players’ salaries only.
“However, we will continue to monitor the impact of football department expenditure on performance. Only if we find there is a direct correlation between overall football department spend and the success of the teams would we consider including those wages in a cap. We want to make sure that we continue to maintain the evenness of the competition – as we have done with the salary cap.”
A difference of $5 million in football department spending between clubs prompted the AFL to last month announce the introduction of a "soft" cap from next season.
The cap will be in the form of a luxury tax levied on those clubs who spend $500,000 more than the average outlay on their football departments.
The tax will be imposed at a rate of 37 per cent next season and 75 per cent in 2016, with the revenue raised then distributed among those clubs who do not exceed the salary cap on football department spending.
Meanwhile, Bennett's son-in-law Ben Ikin – a North Queensland director – said the seven-times premiership-winning mentor had not yet decided where he would coach next season but by announcing his departure from Newcastle without having committed to another club he was likely to have a number of options.
"He doesn't know and that's the truth," Ikin told Sky Sports Radio. "I think right now his first intention was to sort things out with Newcastle, which he did late last week.
"The second thing that he has done, and he hasn't said to me as much, but I am assuming this was part of his thinking, is that he has thrown a bit of a hand grenade out there.
"He has basically said to the rugby league world, listen, I won't be in Newcastle next year so if you have got a bit of an appetite for a coach I am looking for a job."