To cap it all
April 22 2018
In an article in The Rugby Paper this week it was mentioned that we have the second lowest spend on players in the league, yet here we are in the top end of the table, mixing it with the big boys. So is it all about money after all?
The salary cap remains at £7m for the coming season, unchanged from last season. This structure was unanimously agreed by the clubs that form PRL in 2016 amid concerns that raising the salary cap merely leads to player wage inflation rather than building bigger & better squads, employing more people, and actually doing some good for the sport in England.
The arrangements for seasons after next are due for negotiation, so expect to hear a few of the obvious high spenders moaning that they can’t manage on such a small amount, that they can’t can’t compete in Europe. But does that argument really stand up? What would actually happen if our English clubs could compete with Johnny Foreigner in terms of spending? Well for a start, the English game would suffer, as in France the French game is heading down the toilet. Unlimited & crazy spending merely buys up the best players available for hire from around the world, players who have already proven themselves. Aspiring French players don’t get the opportunity to become that good, not in France anyway, because their clubs are stuffed with foreign mercenaries. If you put in controls to stop that from happening, then the extra spending power merely gets spent on the same players that you have now.
So what about clubs that don’t have such spending power? Well if Newcastle Falcons is an example, we don’t seem to be doing too badly. It has been evident for a long time that Deano has been targeting value for money from his signings, and a policy of building a strong squad from the bottom up, rather than the tactic of throwing money at top players in their prime, and hoping that you can make them work together as a team. Deano talks of keeping his core squad together for five or six years into the future, adding look-at-me superstar players just doesn’t fit with that philosophy. If anything, such players are likely to upset the balance of the squad, potentially causing disharmony and doing more harm than good.
There are regular complaints from the great unwashed that the salary cap isn’t enforced or policed, which is probably a fair point. We hear stories of clubs finding ways around it, getting sponsors to buy houses for players or employing their relatives & girlfriends in fake jobs. There is even a story that Bristol have paid a player three years pay in advance while still in the Championship, hoping to argue that his pay will be zero for the purposes of the salary cap, but I can’t see that working, and it might be a myth anyway. There are already some generous concessions, such as allowing two players to be excluded from the cap for bizarre reasons that I haven’t been able to make any sense of yet. You can sign a couple of superstar players on mega money and pay them as much as you like, it is all somehow ignored for salary cap purposes, but is that way of thinking really healthy for the long term of a club?
Semore would be delighted if he could put in absolutely nothing to support Newcastle Falcons, not one penny. It isn’t because he begrudges what he chucks in every year, it is because he wants the club to be independent, not reliant on somebody propping it up year after year. He would like to think that if he got hit by a bus, the club would go on without his backing. That strikes me as a very healthy policy. You just have to look at the way some clubs are run, and imagine what would happen if their benefactor got struck by lightning, or otherwise became unable to keep pouring in the cash. These clubs are so wastefully run that they could struggle to find anybody willing to pour in the same largesse year after year. It is fine while the good days last, but come a rainy day, the proverbial creek and no paddle surely beckons. If a club is used to pouring vast sums of cash at every conceivable problem, it would take years to break the bad habits that are created by such thinking.
The salary cap does at least go some way to stopping spending from getting completely out of control, and making even the wealthiest of clubs at least think about budgets and value for money. It may not be perfect, it may not be policed properly if at all, but I can assure you that we would miss it if it were not there. Meanwhile, our little club of which we are rightly extremely proud, doesn’t have to worry about such things. With just two games of the regular season left to play, we are still in the top four, proving that a well run club can compete with the big spenders, and even leave some of them floundering in their buckets of cash.pqs: qs:
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