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RFL’s Kevin Sinfield says central contract scheme still not finalised

The Rugby Football League have reiterated their stance on refusing to reveal the finer details concerning some of Super League’s leading players being awarded central contracts with the governing body.

It emerged in February that the RFL were in discussions – led by their rugby director, Kevin Sinfield – as part of their plans to try to prevent the player drain to rugby union and the NRL.

Last week, much to the chagrin of the RFL, St Helens announced Jonny Lomax was in that exclusive group of players, leading to them tentatively confirming talks had begun with a number of players without revealing their identities.

Sinfield, who was speaking in Leeds at the first event attended by Prince Harry since his appointment as the sport’s royal patron, said: “There’s a way to go yet. In the not too distant future, the process and the system that the RFL and Super League have gone through, people will be fully briefed on that. It’s in the process. It has to be right before it’s made public.”

Six players are understood to be in line for receiving the contracts, which include a £25,000 payment from the RFL, but when asked how many would be contracted long-term, Sinfield said: “A lot of these things still need to be determined and nailed down. There’s discussions going on behind the scenes and as soon as we know 100%, rather than being 99% sure, people will know.”

Sinfield and the RFL’s chief executive, Nigel Wood, believe the impact of Prince Harry’s role could have a positive effect on the sport’s profile. Sinfield said: “It’s fantastic. To be involved today is pretty special for the game. To have a patron like Prince Harry involved who’s so engaged is brilliant.

“It can be easy to turn up to these things and put on a bit of an act but he wanted to be here and to see how he was willing to spend time with the kids and both current and ex-players is brilliant. If this is the start of things to come, then hopefully it will be a good relationship.”

“It’s early days but he’s been terrific and there’s every prospect of him being active for a long time,” Wood said. “He was interested in our domestic game, our international game and our community aspects and that was great to see. We’re very lucky to have him as a patron.”

Wood also left the door open for Prince Harry to attend rugby league events, including the prospect of becoming the first royal for some time to present the Challenge Cup at Wembley. He said: “These things take time. There are certain protocols you have to observe when dealing with the royal family.

“We have a patron who will be visible and active in promoting rugby league. There’s no shortage of events which would be enhanced by the presence of Prince Harry. We’ve got a World Cup to stage in 2021, there’s plenty on the horizon and the to-do list. What you’ve had here is a terrific representation of everything good with the sport.”