Super League clubs engaged in a fiery argument after several clubs called for a 15 per cent reduction to the salary cap for the 2021 season.
A regulatory meeting took place on Thursday, which saw clubs debate whether that cap should be lowered in light of the Coronavirus crisis.
A proposal was made to reduce the cap to £1.8 million, a reduction of £300,000 on the current salary cap, which would be implemented across the competition.
It’s understood the competition’s four West Yorkshire clubs; Castleford, Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield, expressed their belief that the cap should be reduced. They argued that the majority of clubs will not be in a position to spend up to the cap and as a result it should be reduced to maintain competition integrity, as maintaining the current cap will leave some clubs in a position where they can spend significantly more than others. They also argued that the recent arrival of the government loan was proof the cap needed to be reduced.
However, some other clubs, thought to include St Helens, Warrington and Wigan, argued that the cap should not be reduced. They claimed there is no obligation to spend up to £2.1 million but clubs should be allowed to spend it if they are in a position to do so. They also argued that they had offered contracts based on the current cap, meaning it would be unfair to now change it, while another point raised was that reducing the cap would be a bad look for the competition and its profile.
The argument is thought to have caused a significant split in opinion and the discussion is likely to continue in the coming weeks. Some believe the sport will be able to recover and come back fighting in a short space of time while others believe the repercussions of the current pandemic will be felt for years to come.
Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has warned that whatever happens for the rest of 2020, the game’s financial difficulties will continue into 2021.
“2020 is a battle for survival for all Super League clubs, and right at the outset we pledged allegiance to each other to get through it, working collaboratively to do so,” Hetherington told League Express.
“But we all now realise that 2021 is going to be even more difficult. We are all currently living off the income from season-ticket holders and advertisers that we collected early in the season. In addition we are benefiting from significant government help, including the furloughing provisions and the £16 million loan that was recently announced.
“But we are all facing significant shortfalls in income in 2021, which means we will have to make significant cuts to survive. This is without doubt a period of austerity for the game. Hopefully we will come through it and resume normally in 2022.”
And Hetherington admits the game is still unsure about a date for the resumption of competition, either behind closed doors or in front of crowds.
“We are working very closely with the RFL and the government for a resumption of fixtures as soon as possible,” he said.
“It’s fair to say that rugby of both codes will probably be the last team sport to make a full resumption. But there is a will and spirit in Rugby League to do whatever it takes and clearly we want to be playing in front of crowds to service our own fans and sponsors as soon as it is safe to do so.”
“In terms of making a case out, we as a game need to make our own case out because we are different to other sports and certainly different to Premiership football. Our ten UK based clubs have a stadium capacity of about 180,000 and typically our crowds take up about 50 per cent of our capacity and of course we do have standing areas as well, so I’m confident that we could operate with the required degree of social distancing.”