Aviva Premiership: Salary cap debates rumbles on

Emma Swann takes a look at the continued debate on the financial aspect of rugby, particularly the salary cap

By Emma Swan
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Chris Robshaw captained Harlequins to the Premiership title in May The Sport Review

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The financial aspect of rugby has undergone much deliberation in recent years, with many of the major clubs such as Northampton Saints, Bath and Saracens all pushing for an increase in the salary cap for English clubs.

Although there was a rise from £2.2m to £4m for Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup players in 2008-2009, which is set to ascend further to £4.5m in 2012-2013, these amounts of money are but pennies compared to those of overseas clubs such as Toulon and Stade Francais.

The grass is always greener is a concept that run through most rugby players’ minds when making the decision to play across the channel, with England stars Johnny Wilkinson, Riki Flutey and Olly Barkely all packing their bags to venture to sunnier climes and deeper pockets with French clubs capping their salaries for players at £7.1m.

Premiership rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty touched on these fiscal extremities, insisting the salary cap is for the greater good.

“The final sustainability of clubs is a crucial issue, we need these clubs to be around in the next 50, 60 or 70 years, not just in the next three or four,” said McCafferty.

“That is why we need the salary cap in place to try to make sure as many clubs as possible do balance the books. That means you trade off. You can’t spend the money.”

Wales have followed suit and introduced their salary cap at £3.5m for the four regions in fear of financial difficulties for the clubs in the future.

The salary cap is said to cover the costs of the registered players for Europeans in the four regions – Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons.

However, it does not in fact take into account development and academy players.

It has been said that this enforced cap will place a greater emphasis on developing the further generations of Welsh players.

One big issue that has surfaced on the salary cap matter is that Premiership clubs will be allowed to exclude one player from the cap – set to be introduced in 2012-2013 – to allow increased capacity to keep hold of existing international players and import stars from abroad.

Bath have welcomed this with open arms after their failed attempt at luring Dan Carter to the Rec.

“Looking forward, the continuing success of our expansion strategy to 2015 will depend significantly on our development of playing talent to world-class levels, our retention of that talent in England and the continued attraction of some of the world’s best players,” McCafferty added.

“This combination will add significantly to the attraction of our competition to supporters, viewers and partners.

“Our successful growth will also continue to depend on striking the right balance between the investment in playing talent and the continued long-term
financial stability of clubs. The clubs have agreed how best to strike the right balance.”

Have England and Wales struck the right balance in terms of salary capping? Or, will they face the loss of many talents players to the bright lights of higher earnings? Only time will tell.

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