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Bristol salary cap gaffe has sparked a player fire sale - report

By Liam Heagney
Bristol winger Luke Morahan (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Ex-England second row Dave Attwood won’t be the first top player to exit Bristol as it has been reported a fire sale is underway due to a Premiership salary cap oversight for the 2022/23 season by the Bears. 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. 

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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. 

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. 

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However, the UK Telegraph have now reported 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.

This administrative gaffe has apparently resulted in Bristol having to offload a half-dozen players. The Telegraph reported: “It is understood Bristol intended to release six players, whose contracts were worth an estimated £400,000. 

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“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.

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“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.”

Other players now linked to the fire sale commenced by the offloading of Attwood to Bath on Thursday are former Wallabies winger Luke Morahan and midfielder Antoine Frisch. The salary cap blunder is the latest twist in an underwhelming season for Bristol. 

They finished last season on top of the Premiership regular season table but their results have imploded this season, Pat Lam’s team winning just six of its 19 league games so far to leave them in tenth place and with no chance of reaching the end-of-season semi-finals. 

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