Is It Time For Rugby To Introduce A Proper Transfer Market?

transfer market

Currently there seems to be a huge trend in rugby of players moving from Super Rugby to either Europe or Japan without many going the other way.

This trend has become particularly apparent of late with a number of high profile players such as Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Adam Ashley-Cooper amongst others having already agreed to a post-World Cup to European teams.

It seems the players above are just the tip of the iceberg with a host of Springbok, All Black and Wallaby players believed to be ready to depart for Europes riches. The problem is that the Super Rugby clubs will be receiving no remuneration for the departing players.

This simply has to raise the question of whether a system should be put in place to reward those sides which nurture a player from youth level and develop them into world class athletes. Surely a fairer distribution of rugby’s riches would do the global game a lot of good?

Currently most players only move after their contract expires with their current club, thereby making them free agents for other clubs to poach. There are odd occasions of players contracts being bought out, but this is a rare occurrence.

Instead should World Rugby look to introduce a structured transfer system more akin to that used in football? Whilst this wouldn’t completely eradicate the problem as players would still look to move on for inflated wages, it would at least provide funds for those clubs losing key players.

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There are obviously several issues with such a system, most notably of which would be richer clubs seeking to poach players at any opportunity. Their ability to pay a ‘transfer fee’ could see them making approaches mid-way through a contract, thereby speeding up the movement of players.

Whilst this isn’t ideal, what it would mean is that the selling clubs receive a transfer fee for players, which they can reinvest in the side and ensure other star names are signed on to longer-term contracts. This approach would provide more security for existing players whilst allowing clubs to better plan for the long-term.

Another key issue is that it may create an artificially inflated market whereby richer clubs price others out of the running for players much like has occurred in football. In order to avoid this, World Rugby would need to implement some form of capping on transfer fees and ensure a stringent monitoring of salary caps.

It’s obviously not ideal to have to implement strict monitoring such as this, however I believe it would be a necessary evil in order to ensure a transfer system does not create a distorted market. Perhaps more general rules such as transfer fees cannot exceed the value of a players contract and a percentage restriction on how much a player’s wage can rise by would be easier to implement.

The reality is that no system is ideal in terms of transferring players, however with the increased migration of players from the southern to northern hemisphere, it seems like a transfer system is a matter of when, not if.

It may therefore make sense for World Rugby to intervene now whilst they can still control such a system, rather than allowing a totally free market to rule which could see rugby go the way of football with a small minority of clubs totally dominating the global game.

Do you think a structured transfer system would be beneficial for rugby teams?

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