Another week and another high profile capture by millionaire Marwan Koukash. The Salford Red Devils owner continues to provide Iestyn Harris with an arsenal of big-name signings for 2015.
Since the arrival of Harris, Salford have signed Ben Jones-Bishop from Leeds, Weller Huaraki from Castleford, former Hull KR lynchpin Michael Dobson and the brightest star to come out of London since Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mason Caton-Brown. Then there’s Kevin Locke – the New Zealand international full-back who is arguably the most exciting signing.
With the arrival of so many big names, attention has turned once more to Salford’s salary cap. Indeed, many internet forum users have questioned whether the Devils have abided by the cap’s rules or gone beyond it to secure these players. The truth of a player’s salary is something I can’t profess to know, but questions must be asked considering the huge salary players like Locke and Dobson will surely demand.
What has gone unnoticed by many who are branding Salford ‘cap criminals’ is the amount of high earners that will be out of contract at the end of 2014. The trio of Martin Gleeson, Francis Meli and Adrian Morley are almost certainly among the high earners at The AJ Bell Stadium, while the likes of Matty Ashurst, Stuart Howarth, Danny Williams, Tommy Lee and Michael Platt are also set to leave. Then there’s TIm Smith, who left for former club Wakefield recently, and Marc Sneyd, who handed in a transfer request and is highly likely to move on for a hefty transfer fee.
The salary cap question is fueled by the fact attendances at The AJ Bell continue to tumble – a lowly 3,407 turned out to see Salford gain only their second win in nine against the struggling Bradford Bulls on June 15.
That figure represents a loss of over 4,000 since the season opener against Wakefield, a fixture that pulled in a crowd of over 7,000 – a stadium record for the Red Devils.
That opening day attendance was a result of a much-hyped pre season media campaign, the City of Salford being canvassed for months with appearances by Koukash and co promoting the much-heralded ‘Devilution’.
Koukash, not one to mince his words has constantly made his thoughts public about the salary cap. The outspoken owner revealed in May that he planned to ignore the salary cap rules to turn Salford into a Super League power.
His reason backed by a bold statement that the cap was already being bent and ignored by big-spending rivals.
This outburst put him on a collision course with RFL bosses. Quick to make note that Salford have never spent up to the £1.8 million limit, Koukash went on to state: “Even spending the full cap will not give me a sporting chance of a trophy. So I will spend over it and re-create what three or four other clubs have been doing.
“What’s the fun for me if I spend the full cap, which I’m close to this year already, and you still go to places like Wigan and get hammered like we did?”
With the arrival of highly-regarded centre star Caton-Brown, Iestyn Harris said: “We are delighted to sign Mason today. His signature shows our commitment to signing the best young British prospects in the game and putting them alongside players of international stature such as Rangi Chase and Kevin Locke.”
For Salford supporters it is somewhat a refreshing change to see such quality arrive at Barton rather than leave. In the days before Koukash, Salford were very much victims when it came to having star assets stripped from the club, players such as Jordan Turner, Richie Myler, Matty Smith, and Joel Moon were all key players for Salford.
The losses of such player’s were put down to financial constraints that came as a result of the money ploughed into building the Salford City Stadium and the Super League Licensing fiasco.
Despite losing many of our star players it had little impact, December 2012 being the month Salford announced they were weeks away from administration, reportedly owing over £1.3 million prior to the Koukash takeover.
With money no object to Koukash it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he not only breaks the cap but has delight in doing so, for the sake of the Salford club and its reputation we live in hope that it is purely speculation, that we have played by the rules and the cap does indeed fit for the big spending Red Devils.