Comments from key figures complaining about the salary cap are becoming a more frequent occurrence, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
We all know that the NRL and rugby union have a financial lure over Super League clubs, with the most significant change made to operational rules in recent years being the Marquee Player Rule in an attempt to help clubs spend beyond the cap to attract high profile players. Frank Pritchard and Sam Tomkins have been signed by Hull FC and Wigan respectively under the new ruling.
But in comparison, the NRL have a cap that is double that of Europe’s senior competition, with plans to increase that to $10 million (£5 million) in the next three years, a significant difference to Super League’s £1.85 million figure. As a result, we have seen more British players head Down Under in recent times, including Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead, who are thriving at Canberra Raiders.
The latest to raise concerns is agent Craig Harrison, who represents players such as Zak Hardaker and Ben Currie.
Talking to League Express this week, he said: “Do I want him (Ben Currie) to go? No. I want to see Ben Currie on a Friday night playing and helping build our competition. But will he go? Probably!
“If you say the maximum you can pay a player over here is £160,000 tops, the top players will be gone, as we just can’t compete financially.”
There appears to be a reluctance to increase the cap, not just the RFL, it should be added, and there are valid reasons for that. Most obviously, it allows the league to be as competitive as it currently is. Increasing the cap would see certain clubs fail to compete financially, which runs the risk of the competition becoming weaker overall. Crucially, it ensures clubs work with a sustainable budget.
But at the same time, is there any other walk of life where wages have not been allowed increase? With inflation, wages have risen in every aspect of life, other than in British Rugby League. It’s no surprise this country’s elite players want to move to the Promised Land.
Beyond that, not allowing our richer clubs to spend their wealth damages their hopes of signing big-name players. The last ‘world-class’ player to star in Super League at their time of their arrival was Andrew Johns… 11 years ago, and even the great icon was entering his twilight years. It’s clear that something doesn’t add up.
Then again, just two clubs are utilising the aforementioned Marquee Player Rule, so are clubs actively trying to spend the additional money, or can the product not attract players worthy of the lofty wage?
The problem is that the longer it goes on, the bigger the problem will be to overcome. It seems almost a guarantee that one high-profile will make the move to the NRL in 2017 in the shape of Hardaker, it’d be surprising if he’s the only one.
On a side note, Salford’s interest in Jack Reed might be prematurely ended because the England international is a non-Federation trained player because of his time in Australia.
Surely, if a club wants to sign an English-born, international player, we should be encouraging our clubs to do that, not preventing them.
It can’t just be this writer that thinks it is bizarre.