contractThe Salary Cap, three words often spoken about in the world of Premiership Rugby up until now I really haven’t known or understood the basic facts.  The cap was introduced for two reasons in July 1999, primarily due to concerns about the financial stability of clubs (clearly Wendyball don’t have the same worries! See Real Madrid!). The cap it was hoped would also allow some parity between clubs to give a competitive league.

That original cap was set at £1.8m and has increased to £4.26 for the 2013/14 season. To encourage the inclusion of ‘home grown’ players that can grow in increments of £30k for each Academy player in the squad up to a total of 8. Giving a total of £4.5m. In addition to the Academy carrot each club can nominate one player to be excluded from the magic total. As long as the player satisfies 1 of 3 conditions his salary can be discounted as long as the Salary Cap Manager agrees.

Phew! So the three words come with a large degree of technicality it’s not as straight forward as looking at a plain figure.

Several of the top teams in recent years have come under the spotlight certainly for fans of opposing clubs. As a Saracens season ticket holder I’m very aware as I watch so many stars turn out on a weekly basis that my team and it’s set up are at the centre of some disgruntled whispers. The signings of Billy Vunipola and James Johnson for this season can only add to suspicions. Each closed season see comings and goings and Saracens saw the very high profile John Smit retiring from the game to take up a coaching post in South Africa. At the same time we said goodbye to Carlos Nieto. With no knowledge of the likely salaries the two players leaving the pack will not have come cheap.  John Smit will have met the conditions to be the excluded player while he was with us, leaving the way open for one of the highest earners to be discounted. The nature of of our squad sees a good number of players disappearing on international duty giving our young guns a chance to play and allowing an increase to the maximum.

With the recent scapegoat, Melbourne Storm, in admittedly a different code ‘Down Under’ seeing the club stripped of everything they had won since 2006 and an additional fine of $1.7m; It is clear that the cap in sport is something to be taken seriously with huge punishments for any club in breach.  No ‘fan’ on the ground can have a true knowledge of the workings of their club, but as a Saracens fan I have faith in the management team of the club as well as the scrutiny provided by the Premiership Rugby Salary Cap Manager.

Some food for thought as I sign off… The French Top 14 salary cap is £8.6m something to explore once the Heineken Cup starts!