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A new rugby league war? NRL ‘threatened with breakaway competition’ over funding row… as Panthers boss Brian Fletcher slams league’s ‘deplorable’ financial conduct and claims clubs feel they are being ‘ROBBED’

A number of NRL clubs are reportedly considering forming a breakaway competition, as the row over funding threatens to escalate even further with Panthers boss Brian Fletcher claiming the league was ‘robbing’ the clubs.

According to the Daily Telegraph, a ‘handful of clubs’ have privately discussed the option as they are reaching breaking point over the financial impasse that risks grounding the competition to halt.

The bombshell revelation has rocked the NRL, forcing Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo to cancel their trip to England for the Rugby League World Cup final.

ARLC supremo Peter V'landys is under pressure from a number of NRL clubs

ARLC supremo Peter V’landys is under pressure from a number of NRL clubs 

The duo will instead remain in Australia to resume negotiations with the clubs.

While the prospect of clubs defecting from the NRL remains remote, according to News Corp the threat cannot be entirely dismissed as the licences of all 16 clubs expire at the end of next season.

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The clubs, the NRL and the Rugby League Players’ Association have been at loggerheads for months over several issues.

As it stands, a salary cap is still not in place for next season and neither is the playing schedule. All the parties involved are yet to agree to a new collective bargaining deal and to a funding agreement for the clubs. 

Panthers boss Brian Fletcher insisted the clubs would not be dictated to by the league

Panthers boss Brian Fletcher insisted the clubs would not be dictated to by the league

And Fletcher insisted the clubs demanded financial transparency from the NRL and they would not be ‘dictated to’ by the league.

‘We need some answers and we need some transparency,’ Fletcher said.

‘We’ve asked for a balance sheet from Magic Round. We put on the show but we never see anything. It’s actually deplorable. Show us the figures.

‘It’s hard to support them when you think they are robbing you.’

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo retains the backing of V'landys, despite criticism from several clubs about his handling of the competition

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo retains the backing of V’landys, despite criticism from several clubs about his handling of the competition

Fletcher said the clubs wanted $5 million on top of the salary cap and has offered to sit dow with V’landys to resume negotiations. The latter acknowledged the clubs were within their right to looking to maximise their financial returns, but insisted he was firmly behind Abdo.

‘I respect the fact that everyone is trying to maximise the returns to themselves,’ he said.

‘However what I find most disappointing is that they are attacking Andrew Abdo with falsehood. No one has worked harder for the game to get it to the healthy position it’s now in.

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‘I’m confident we will get a resolution which not everyone is going to like but at the end of the day that’s why you have an independent commission.’ 

A month on since the NRL Grand Final, the playing schedule for next season remains to be decided, while a salary cap for 2023 hasn't been agreed yet

A month on since the NRL Grand Final, the playing schedule for next season remains to be decided, while a salary cap for 2023 hasn’t been agreed yet 

Australian rugby league was last rocked by a breakaway competition in 1997, when the Super League ran its only season alongside the ARL premiership and was won by the Broncos

Australian rugby league was last rocked by a breakaway competition in 1997, when the Super League ran its only season alongside the ARL premiership and was won by the Broncos

Australian rugby league hasn’t experience a breakaway competition since the Super League War rocked the sport in the mid 1990s.

After a two-year legal battles, the News Corp-backed Super League was launched in 1997 to rival the Australian Rugby League, which had replaced the New South Wales Premiership two years earlier.

The Super League and the ARL ran simultaneously in 1997, before merging a year later to form the NRL. 

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