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Bristol Bears statement: Alleged Premiership salary cap problem

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Bristol Bears have issued a statement in response to a damaging newspaper story claiming that a 2022/23 Premiership salary cap problem has resulted in the fire sale of six players – with ex-England second row Dave Attwood the first to leave. Attwood was unveiled as a new Bath signing on Thursday and it led to claims by the UK Telegraph that his exit was a consequence of a salary cap accounting error for next season.

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“It is understood Bristol intended to release six players, whose contracts were worth an estimated £400,000,” the newspaper alleged. “However, they missed the deadline, meaning the third-year extensions had already kicked in. A club spokesman declined to comment on Thursday night. Even if those players are paid off, it is understood that would still count against the salary cap, so Bristol are now having to make savings wherever they can.

“Including their marquee players, Bristol had one of the biggest wage bills in the Premiership and an emergency board meeting was convened when the mistake came to light in March. They have also committed to signing England prop Ellis Genge and Sale fly-half AJ MacGinty for next season.”

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A club statement issued on Friday read: “Bristol Bears are aware of reports in the Telegraph on Thursday, March 31. The club reiterates its commitment to salary cap compliance and we continue to work closely with PRL. We categorically state that we have been, we are and will continue to be under the salary cap.

“As per previous seasons, the majority of our recruitment for the 2022/23 campaign has been done early, with new arrivals and player retention details to be announced in the next few weeks.”

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It was two years ago – during the lockdown suspension of the 2019/20 season – that a decision was taken by the Gallagher Premiership clubs to reduce the salary cap from £6.4million to £5m for the 2021/22 season. A clause, though, allowed clubs to only count 75 per cent of existing contracts against the revised cap, something that resulted in a host of clubs renegotiating the existing deals they had with players prior to the July 1 deadline in 2020.

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This led to numerous contracts becoming ‘two-plus-one’, two-year deals with the option of a third year when the time came and it would allow clubs to count just 75 per cent of that revised contract towards the reduced salary cap. 

However, the UK Telegraph claimed that Bristol missed the deadline regarding the ‘plus-one’ aspect, resulting in the third year of the ‘two-plus-one’ deals kicking in and leaving them poised to spend more than stipulated by the salary cap for the 2022/23 season.

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