SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys and National Rugby League Acting Chief Executive Andrew Abdo arrive a NRL press conference at Rugby League Central on September 03, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Third party deals have long been dimly viewed by fans of the NRL, and now, it would seem bosses at a vast majority of clubs have the same view.

Illegal third party deals to get around the tight rules of the NRL salary cap could be more common place than anyone would have believed.

While no boss on their own has fessed up to doing it, of the 23 bosses surveyed - 31 were originally contacted by The Sydney Morning Herald who ran the survey, with eight opting out of the survey - 70 per cent revealed they believe other clubs use deals which are not legal under the rules of the NRL salary cap.

70 per cent of the 23 bosses indicates that 16 believe there is rorting of the salary cap talking place. The NRL on a semi-regular basis fines clubs for self-reported salary cap breaches, however, the game hasn't found a major breach since the Parramatta Eels were fined $1 million in 2016. The club were also stripped of 12 competition points and the Auckland Nines title after being found to be over the cap by $500,000.

That followed the major breach by the Melbourne Storm in 2010, and the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2002.

However, one boss told the publication, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that clubs believe others still operate outside the rules.

β€œThe NRL have done a good job cleaning up a lot of the confusion and irregularities around third-party agreements,” the boss said.

β€œBut many clubs believe that there are still instances where a club will operate outside the TPA rules to secure income for a player. That sort of assistance can make a big difference in signing or keeping a player.”

Third party agreements will never be equal, given the different commercial links and lengths each team are able to go to, and it will likely continue being a gripe of fans.

In other questions, Andrew Abdo scored a 4.4 out of 5 for his last 12 months in charge of the game, while Peter V'Landys scored 4.5 for his role.

Intriguingly though, only 21 per cent of bosses said that the NRL and ARLC do enough to support clubs.

The referees scored 3.5 out of 5, while 83 per cent of respondents said having one referee has improved the game, with 70 per cent then agreeing that the rule changes have also improved the game.

83 per cent of bosses said adding the Dolphins was the right move, while 61 per cent believe 2025-2027 will be the right time for an 18th team, with 30 per cent suggesting after 2028 will be the way to go. Only 9 per cent said to not add an 18th team. New Zealand was the most popular option for said 18th team, with the New South Wales Central Coast and Perth the next two most popular options.