The transitional takeover of the Newcastle Knights by the NRL and Wests Group has been delayed as lawyers draft up documents.

BRIAN McGuigan is continuing to represent the Knights as club chairman after a delay in the transitional handover to the Wests Group.

MEETING: Brian McGuigan

MEETING: Brian McGuigan

After Wests members endorsed the proposed takeover, an interim joint-ownership process was supposed to kick off on Wednesday this week, by which the Knights would be overseen by Wests Group chief executive Phil Gardner and the NRL’s chief financial officer, Tony Crawford.

But Gardner told the Herald this week that lawyers had not finished drafting up paperwork and the transition will not take place “until next week, at the earliest”.

The two parties will then engage in a due-diligence process that, barring any unforeseen obstacles, will culminate in Wests assuming full ownership on November 1. In the meantime, it is business as usual for the incumbent Knights board and administration, so McGuigan represented the club at a meeting of NRL chairmen on Thursday to discuss next season’s salary cap.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley attended a similar meeting for NRL CEOs, at which clubs settled on a salary cap of $9.4 million for 2018.

That figure is halfway between the $9.6 million requested by cash-strapped clubs earlier this week, and the $9.2 million sought by those with room to move in their budgets. It includes a base cap of $9.2 million for each club's top 30 players, plus an optional $200,000 allowance for veteran players and development.

The proposed cap is a significant increase on this year's base of $7.1 million, which covers the top 25 players in each squad.

Gidley said the compromise was a common-sense outcome and was hopeful the figure would be accepted next week by the players’ union, the Rugby League Professionals Association.

“All the clubs are pretty united, so now the NRL will take the proposal to the RLPA on Monday,” Gidley said.

“So there will be an increase in the cap for next season and there’s still some flexibility for clubs to manage their cap.’’  

The Knights were among a number of clubs who would have been content with a $9.2 million. Newcastle still have significant funds available and hope to make a number of signings between now and next season.

Other clubs such as Canterbury and Canberra, who had been hoping for a cap of closer to $10 million, will reportedly have to cull contracted players to comply with next season’s figure.

Gidley said the extra $200,000 proposed “may have some small benefits” for clubs struggling to stay within the cap, but the Knights were still hopeful quality players would become available.

“If there are clubs that are seriously over the cap, they’re obviously going to have to take some drastic steps to become compliant,’’ he said.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said: "This is an important step but we are still in negotiations with the RLPA. Getting the clubs to agree on a package is very important for the game and especially the players."


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