Netball: Player contracts should endure revamp of national structure

By Dana Johannsen

Grace Rasmussen in action for the Mystics. Photo / Getty Images.
Grace Rasmussen in action for the Mystics. Photo / Getty Images.

Fears franchise players will be left in limbo while Netball New Zealand overhauls the national structure have been alleviated by players' association boss Tim Lythe.

The move next year to a zone-based system will change the ownership model for New Zealand's transtasman league franchises, which are owned by their respective regions.

With the five new zonal bodies not due to come into existence until November, there were concerns players would have to wait until the end of the year to get their contracts finalised, while the agreements of those on multi-year deals could be null and void once the old set-up was abolished.

But Lythe, head of the New Zealand Netball Players' Association (NZNPA), is confident the restructure of the national set-up will not hold up the franchise contracting process.

"I don't think we are contingent on those bodies being set up, we can probably have a transitional contract model, where the new zone once they're established effectively takes over the contract," said Lythe.

Northern Mystics chief executive Julie Paterson said the changes to the national structure "potentially could get very messy" for franchises, but Netball NZ are working to make sure it is as straight forward as possible.

Paterson said the simplest way to handle the changeover was that the company set-up that owned the franchise would remain in place until the new zones were established to ensure player contracts and sponsorship deals were not jeopardised.

"Some organisations have got sponsorship contracts in place for two or three years, and nobody wants to risk those agreements. And nobody wants to put the players in a risky position either," said Paterson.

"We just have to work on the premise that it is business as usual for the franchises until such a time comes that we can roll everything over."

But before any players can be signed for next season, the NZNPA must first finalise details around a new collective bargaining agreement.

Lythe said that while the present agreement had largely worked over the first four years, there were some areas that needed to be "tweaked".

The NZNPA met franchise bosses this month to talk through any issues that had cropped up.

A follow-up meeting will be held in early July where he hoped to firm up the new agreement.

Until the league can significantly increase the revenue coming into the competition, the issue of upping player payments will be off the agenda, but Lythe said the way player contracts were structured still needed to be examined.

This includes discussion around minimum and maximum player payments, how many players are contracted and the timeline on those contracts.

"It's no secret there is not any more money coming into the competition, but we do need to look at the contract model to make sure we are making the best use of what the league has and what the franchises have," said Lythe.

Southern Steel boss David Bannister is advocating an incentive-based contract model, which he believes would allow for a more equal distribution of talent.

However, Lythe said any system that would force players to relocate needed to be discussed pretty thoroughly.

"There's a limit to what you can do, it's very difficult to force players to play where you may think they ought to, like a draft system or something like that - particularly when you're talking the quantum of money we've got."

- NZ Herald

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