SUPER League clubs have today backed proposals set out by the Rugby Football League designed to help attract and retain the best talent to the Betfred Super League by increasing the salary cap.
Clubs voted to increase the current Salary Cap to £2.1m by 2020 and also backed proposals to introduce three additional changes to the current rules all designed specifically to help clubs keep and attract elite talent to the competition.
Under current regulations, the salary cap is £1.825m per season but the new proposals would see it rise to £1.9m in 2018, £2m in 2019 and £2.1m in 2020.
In addition to the proposed Salary Cap rise, clubs also voted to increase the number of marquee players permitted at each Super League club from one to two and have backed proposals that provide clubs with exemptions from the Salary Cap when bringing new or returning players to the sport.
The final proposal voted for by Super League clubs would see exemptions to the Salary Cap for certain players under 21 years old.
Its not clear which players at clubs are currently on the “Marquee” rule, other than Sam Tomkins at Wigan Warriors, but the clubs are not obliged to disclose which players are under the rule.
With the new proposal also allowing an adjustment for players returning to the sport, providing they have not played the game for a minimum of five years, there are hopes that former stars who have left to play rugby union, such as Kyle Eastmond,who left St Helens for Bath and is now at Wasps, may return to the sport.
These players would be given a 50% dispensation on their salary in the first year of returning, and 25% in the second year.
With a drive to retain and find new talent, there are also allowances for younger players to be exempt from the cap;
• Each club would be entitled to dispensation for two New Talent Pool Players and/or Returning Talent Pool Players. To qualify a player must be 19+ on 31/08 prior to the start of the season.
• A New Talent Pool Player will continue to have the current definition (i.e. broadly a player who has not played Rugby League at first team, Academy or Scholarship level) and the current allowance (of that player’s Salary Cap Value being reduced: (i) to £0 in his first full season; and (ii) by 50% in his second full season) will continue to apply.
So, in short, very few clubs will have the finances to pay more than the current cap, which is covered by the Sky TV deal, but it is hoped that these new rules will encourage younger players to remain in the sport and not head off to play union.
The clubs themselves are desperate to make the game a more attractive proposition, not just for younger players, but also the fans of the sport.
Viewing figures for live games have been stagnant for some time. The figures for march according to the official BARB ratings were like this;
LEEDS v WAKEFIELD 71,000
CATALAN v ST HELENS 61,000
WAKEFIELD v LEIGH 75,000
ST HELENS v WARRRINGTON 142,000
It is now up to the clubs themselves to work with the RFL and its marketing department to make these new rules work, after all, they wanted them.
Interestingly, it was revealed that the vote was passed seven to five, indicating that some clubs are not entirely onboard, yet.
Speaking following the meeting, Rugby Football League Chief Commercial Officer & Super League Executive Director, Roger Draper, said: “We have had a fantastic start to the 2017 Betfred Super League season with some incredible action on the field. Attendances and viewing figures are up on last year and the decision to support the proposals today is another significant positive result for the Super League.
“The clubs asked the Rugby Football League to put forward a set of proposals that would help them retain and attract the best players to the competition and we believe that when you consider all the them together, these changes could make a significant difference to helping clubs attract and retain the best talent in this league and that is something we all are determined to do going forward.”
Owner of Salford Red Devils, Marwan Koukash, said: “I think it was a fantastic meeting. I think the decisions that were made are good for the sport and good for the competition and I am delighted with this outcome. It is crucial we have the best players playing in this league. We need to provide fans with the best entertainment and talent on the field and the decisions today give us the opportunity to do that.”
Owner of Wigan Warriors, Ian Lenagan, said: “The meeting today was very positive and was a move in the right direction for the Super League. We need the best players playing in our competition and when all of the proposals that were voted through are looked at together, the decisions that were made today will provide Super League clubs the opportunity to do that.”
Owner of Warrington Wolves, Simon Moran, said: “I think it was a constructive meeting and everyone was very positive as we left at the end. If you want the competition to flourish going forward it is very important that the best talent is kept in our League and some of the proposals that were put forward today will help us do that. I thought it was very important that the salary cap did go up and the opportunity is now there with two marquee players available to clubs to bring and retain some of the best talent in the world.”