Is the Superleague salary cap increase just a drop in the ocean?

As the dust settles on last week’s decision by Superleague chairmen to increase the salary cap over the next three seasons, we take a look at the ramifications here and in Australia.

Hull F.C. owner Adam Pearson commented after the meeting that he agreed ‘reluctantly’ to the decision because otherwise Hull would have been over the cap for next season, a sum of £1.9 million already accounted for and not enough!

Meanwhile over in the NRL, clubs are close to ‘reluctantly’ agreeing to a salary cap of $8.3 million AUD or in our money £5.2m!! The reluctance isn’t because its a sky high amount, its because most clubs have already budgeted on players wages at around the $9m mark & some even higher towards $10m.

I fully understand that we cannot compare like for like, due to the vast gulf in various factors such as player pool, media exposure, sponsorship, and the size and standing of each competition within the respective countries to name a few factors, but the decisions made in each country will have a knock on effect on the other.

Take West Tigers in Australia as an example who have budgeted over the base salary cap for 2018 hoping that the higher amount would be ratified. On this basis the Tigers board had targeted four of their big name stars, Aaron Woods, James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks as priority signings on mega money but as a direct consequence of the inertia in the negotiations the hugely talented half back Moses (pictured with Woods)

IMG_0308  will be playing in the Blue & Gold of Parramatta Eels in 2018 if not before on upwards of $850,000 per season, incidently a figure that brought hoots of derision from Eels legend Brett Kenny, Kenny saying “Moses is not worth $850K a year”.

You maybe wondering what the NRL as anything to do with how it effects Superleague, well if top line players are moving about for massive money the trickle down effect is that lesser players’ options in their own competition are going to be restricted and therefore will look overseas to earn good money, so the British game may well get an influx of ‘very good’ but not Marquee standard players on inflated wages that only a few clubs can or will pay.

We as a competition can’t compete on any aspect with the NRL, talent pool, wages, commercial opportunites (though the RFL couldn’t give free vodka to an alcoholic without losing money), media exposure etc etc but we should be spending extra money on the structure of the league from grass roots up and a functioning reserve grade competition for ALL superleague clubs to grow our own Marquee players rather then paying top dollar to unwanted (in their own comp) players.

By the same score we as a competition cannot allow owners/chairmen to buy their way into trouble by spending unjustifiable wages and walking away from the consequences if the club goes to the wall. It’s a very vicious circle because as fans we are hungry for instant success and are quick to finger point when we don’t bring in ‘star players’ ahead of developing our own.

What we have to remember is we were at least 10 years behind the all conquering Australians in 1982 and we haven’t moved on as regard closing that gap in the last 35 years, and by increasing our salary cap slightly each year is not going to be enough, so the RFL MUST insist on honing the quality of our competition from the bottom upwards and positively, at any opportunity increase the participation of Rugby League in all age groups as a priority, the more youngsters playing increase the chances of finding our own diamonds, instead of paying top dollar for Aussie costume jewellery.

One benefit our clubs may reap a little from when the increase kicks in, is to stop our stars been lured over to the NRL if us, as clubs can get near enough to what’s on offer monetary wise over there. Consequently our competition will only evolve for the better if the next generation of Sam Burgess’ or James Graham’s are playing week in week out against each other over here, thus inspiring and encouraging the following generations to take up the great game of Rugby League.

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