English Premiership rugby union team Saracens has called for the league to scrap its salary cap to ensure its teams remain competitive among Europe’s elite.
In a statement released on the London-based team’s official website, Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths indicated he has the support of six other teams from England’s top division over the matter.
Premiership Rugby, the league’s operating body, introduced a salary cap in 1999 and the amount clubs are allowed to spend on their wage bill will rise by £500,000 (€630,000/$780,000) to £5.5m for next season. From 2015-16, teams will also be allowed to select two “excluded players” – elite players whose wages will not fall within the cap.
It is hoped the latter move can help Premiership clubs to retain and attract some of rugby union’s leading stars after England hosts the 2015 World Cup but Griffiths maintains that the mere presence of the cap places teams at a disadvantage alongside those from France’s Top 14, where spending is unrestricted and players can benefit from lucrative contracts.
In his statement, Griffiths said: “The salary cap has served its purpose. It would be a pity if the world’s top players light up the World Cup on English soil, and then leave to play club rugby in France. If the salary cap is left to forbid the required investment, it will kill any hope of growth.
“English clubs must compete in the European Champions Cup against Irish and French sides spending two or three times as much on players. Imagine the likes of Arsenal or Manchester City being asked to compete with Barcelona, Bayern (Munich) and Real Madrid under those circumstances. It would never happen, but it happens in rugby.
“The combination of England hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and sevens featuring in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 creates a historic, but fleeting, platform for rugby to grow dramatically. It is time to seize that opportunity, to ensure a level playing field in Europe, to build the strongest league in world rugby and to let players earn market-related salaries. We must release the handbrake and step on the accelerator.
“We understand some clubs fear the removal of the salary cap will cause wage inflation, yet, in reality, salaries are already being driven by the French clubs. We can either sit back and become a ’lowest common denominator’ league, or we can leap forward.”