Is Money Damaging Rugby?


For years rugby fans have been passing comment on the over-inflated wages so prevalent in football these days, but could that be about to change?

Although wages in rugby are still minuscule compared to the astronomical salaries of football’s top stars, the gap does seem to be slowly but surely closing, with big spending Top 14 sides no longer the only ones perpetuating the issue.

The big story on this came earlier this year when Racing Metro announced the signing of All Blacks Mr Fantastic Dan Carter for a reported cool million per season. Whilst this obviously pales in comparison to the Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s of this world, does it really represent true value?

Carter may still be as big a name as they come in rugby, however he has struggled to string more than a handful of games together in the last couple of seasons. Given this record will the Parisian side really be able to claim they have received value for money in this signing?

Possibly even more bizarre is Ulster’s recent announcement of the signing of fringe All Blacks squad member Charles Piutau. Although no doubt a talented player, a reported wage of half a million a year suggests that Ulster have paid well above the odds in order to attract the player.

The issue here is that what kind of message does this send to established French or Irish internationals when they come to negotiating their next contract. Ulster’s Tommy Bowe for example could claim to be at least on a par with Piutau, if not above given he is a regular starter for Ireland.

Now obviously age is on Piutau’s side, however will players like Simon Zebo now be expecting wages on a par with Ulster’s big name recruit? It’s easy to see how this becomes a never ending spiral of increasing wage demands that are either met by the incumbents existing club, or are matched by a side with superior spending power.

Should Zebo feel hard done by when it comes to negotiating his next contract with the IRFU, it’s easy to see how he may find a big spending Top 14 side appealing as there’s sure to be no end of potential suitors.

It’s easy to see how we could be about to enter a cycle of inflating wages, with clubs being forced to stump up increasing amounts for wages, just to retain their best talent, never mind attracting new players.

This could become even more of an issue with some English Premiership clubs pushing for the salary cap to be scrapped all together. We may then seen players receiving huge money offers from both England and France, leavings clubs in the Pro12 and Super Rugby struggling to retain their top talent.

There is also the obvious knock-on effect on the international sides as is currently being witnessed in France. It is no coincidence that the national side has been struggling of late given the huge numbers of foreign imports currently being brought into the league.

One of the major problems is that this is having a knock-on effect on fans, who are now being forced to stump up huge sums of money for tickets to this years World Cup. If wages continue to rise as such, it’s easy to see the same issues beginning to effect the club game as well.

Given that many clubs already run at huge losses, the increasing demand to pay top players ever higher salaries is sure to see the demise of some teams as they fail to retain the necessary talent to compete at the top level. This could be particularly prevalent in Super Rugby where there is already set to be a huge raft of players leave after this years World Cup.

Do you think there is a risk of money becoming too important in rugby?



About Dave Nicoll

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