The NRL and the Professional Rugby League Match Officials Union (PRLMOU) have agreed to a landmark enterprise agreement that will see the leagues top-flight referees receive a ‘significant’ pay increase over the next four years.
The new agreement has helped the NRL avoid potential industrial action from the referees’ union ahead of Round 1, with Graham Annesley, Head of elite football at the NRL, describing the new agreement as “a significant” salary percentage increase over the next four years.
NRL.com has suggested the figure is close to a 30 per cent pay rise by 2022, with the likes of leading whistle-blowers Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein pocketing over $300,000 – a healthy increase from the previous high water mark of around $180,000.
In what appears to be a hefty payday for the referees, Annesley said the pay rise puts rugby league referees on a salary par with officials across any Australian sport.
“It’s important that we acknowledge just what a critical role our match officials play in the Telstra Premiership week-in and week-out,” Annesley told NRL.com.
“We know that it’s a much-maligned job and brings with it lots of criticism.
“But we simply can’t have a credible Telstra Premiership without professional match officials helping to ensure that our game reaches the level we expect.”
The minimum wage of referees will increase beyond a 2018 base of $105,000 due to a tiered structure system, while NRL players will see the average salary rise to $330,000 during the same period.
Along with a significant pay increase, the new enterprise agreement introduces several welfare considerations for NRL officials, including access to a full-time sports psychologist in 2019.
After the focus on the game’s officials was ramped up by last year’s penalty crackdown, Annesley said the NRL had been prompted into action.
We have engaged a sports psychologist to work with the referees,” Annesley said.
“That (abuse) received a bit of publicity last year and we’ve acted on that.
“We’re very aware of the need to ensure their (referees) welfare is protected as much as possible.
“We all know it’s a job that comes with a lot of criticism so no one is walking away from that fact so we need to do as much to support them.”