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Super League salary cap - is time for a change? Phil Clarke investigates

Phil Clarke Posted 17th July 2014 view comments

The salary cap was one of the things that we’ve copied from Australian rugby league, who themselves lifted it from professional sport in the USA.

It’s an agreement between teams to place a limit on the amount of money that a they can spend on player salaries. We’ve now had it in place in rugby league in this country since 1999 and it was debated at a meeting of all the clubs recently. Much has been written and said on this subject over the course of the last week and I’d like to listen and learn a little more about it.

Salford Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash has been a strong advocate for scrapping the salary cap

Salford Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash has been a strong advocate for scrapping the salary cap

I'm also very interested to hear your thoughts and opinions.The sport is reliant on the supporters to keep it alive even though, ultimately, it is the owners and chairmen who carry the burden of paying everyone’s wages and running the club. What do you think about the salary cap?

I will attempt to speak with several of the owners over the course of the next week and some of the players, to listen to their thoughts on this subject. I want to understand the pros and cons and come to a sensible conclusion at the end of it.

On one hand, it appears as though the salary cap hasn’t worked in achieving the two goals that it was set out to; firstly providing financial stability and secondly, to even out the spread of talent throughout the Super League clubs so that at the start of each year every team has a realistic chance of getting to the Grand Final.

Pay rise

Some people have commented to me recently that the standard of the game has dropped over the last 10 years. This is debateable, what is not is the fact that the salary cap has virtually remained the same since 1999. There aren’t many jobs that haven’t seen a pay rise in the last 15 years and it’s understandable then that in theory the better quality players, who used to play in Super League, now play elsewhere.

In the last 10 years the salary cap in the NRL has increased by about £1.4million and some argue that the standard of the game Down Under has improved quicker than it has in Super League. Is money a reason behind that?

They seem to have been more successful at getting more of their teams into their Grand Final than we have, although it still hasn’t stopped clubs from getting into financial difficulty. Both the Newcastle Knights and the Cronulla Sharks have problems to match one or two clubs in the UK.

In some ways my opinion isn’t worth much here. I haven’t lost any of my own money like some of the owners of clubs in the UK. It must be quite frustrating when they hear people saying that the salary cap should increase when they’ve been funding the sport to survive. It’s easy to say that when it’s not coming out of your own pocket.

Naive 

But here is the big question. Where does the money go? I think that many of us naively assume that because the central distribution of money is approaching the total amount that a team can spend on its first team players, that the club has lots of spare cash and makes a healthy profit.

From what I understand this isn’t the case. Spending outside of the salary cap may have increased significantly over the last 15 years, but has this made the game any better? If the central distribution or TV money has increased, and the salary cap has remained virtually the same, where has the money been spent?

Before I begin my investigation into the salary cap, I want to know what you think of it. Do you think that it’s failed in achieving its goals or does it just need more time? Are we being prevented from seeing the world’s best rugby players by it? Does it really have any link to success and performance?

I’ve noticed this week that you can buy a ticket to watch the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley this year for £13.50 which was about the price of the cheapest ticket at the 1985 Cup Final. Is this the reason why the salary cap hasn’t increased? Are we making the game too cheap to keep pace with other sports?

Let me know what you think by commenting below and I’ll spend the next week finding out what I can.

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