Salary Caps: Blessing or Blight?

A lot has been made of the salary caps in the last couple of years. When there’s talk of talent drain, there are usually a lot of fingers pointed at these caps. However, they were first created to make sure that the financially weaker teams could compete with the bigger and richer teams. What are these salary caps, and how have they impacted our game? And more importantly, do they have a place in the future?

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The reason for their existence is that it would level the playing field for all the teams in a certain competition. This certainly rings true for Super Rugby, where there aren’t a lot of transfers in the competition. Technically, only Australia has a team cap as New Zealand imposes a player-specific cap and South Africa doesn’t even have one. However, considering player movement, we can take Australia’s cap, being 3.2 million euros, as a benchmark. What this has meant for this competition is that it is highly competitive (With the last round being a string of upsets for example) and that it is financially viable.

In 2011 the Welsh regions imposed a salary cap of 4.1 million euros. They are the only pro 12 nation to do this, yet the other unions do not seem to have a higher ceiling as there is very little player movement in this competition either.

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The English premiership has a cap of 5.3 million euros. They do, however, permit one player to be excluded from this cap. This is quite a bit higher than the other aforementioned competitions. The English cap is nothing compared to the one imposed by the French though. They have established a salary cap of 10 million euros, which is nearly twice as much as the English cap.

And here we come to the main issue. Due to the difference in salary caps, there’s a massive amount of player movement between competitions. Many clubs are simply outbid by the French teams and, as a result, lose their best players.

The Welsh exodus has also severely impacted the ability of the regions to be competitive in Europe, as more than 15 players left their clubs to play abroad. They have only had 1 runner up in the competition since 1995, being Cardiff, with not even one team making it out of the group stages this season.

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The Welsh players are not the only ones being targeted by the French clubs and their rich owners. More and more players from the Southern Hemisphere ply their trade under the French sun, and this trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Apart from the players from the SANZAR nations, there are now also a lot of pacific islanders on these clubs’ payrolls.

This is the next major cause of concern. These players, especially the Fijians, are said to have been offered compensation by their clubs if they choose to not represent their countries. This influences the competitivity on an international level which damages the health of our game.

It’s obvious that a salary cap has its merits, but it also has its demerits. It’s up to the IRB and the unions to decide if one outweighs the other.

Do you think that the IRB should enforce a global salary cap, or if they should just dispose of them altogether? Or is the system as good as it’s going to get?

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