Leading figures in the English club game have hinted that the lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic could be the reduction of the £7million salary cap governing the Gallagher Premiership and the reduction in the number of marquee players permitted outside the cap.

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No matches have been played in the tournament since Bristol hosted Harlequins on March 8 at Ashton Gate. The tournament has since been suspended and the financial ramifications of the indefinite stoppage have been severe with clubs implementing swingeing pay cuts and signing up to the UK government’s furlough scheme. 

The current lack of cash flow is a deeply worrying situation for a tournament where profit-making clubs have been few and far between since its inception, and the feeling is that it will now put a stop to the salary growth that has been witnessed in the last while due to clubs paying two marquee players each outside the salary cap.  

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Speaking to dailymail.co.uk, Exeter boss Rob Baxter suggested the time had come for the sport to stop paying inflated salaries. “Rugby clubs have been losing money on the whole and this pandemic won’t help,” reckoned. “It’s certainly going to put a halt on salaries continuing to inflate. You may find that it doesn’t need to be pushed because it’ll be driven by the clubs themselves, who are feeling the strain.”

The financial crisis could not only result in the £7m salary cap being reduced, but it could also see a reduction in the two marquee players per club allowance to just one in order to curb costs in a sector where stars can earn extraordinary amounts of up to the £900,000-a-year wage Bristol’s Charles Piutau is reportedly on. 

Gloucester CEO Lance Bradley added: “As much as you love rugby as a sport, you have to look at it as a business. In a business, you wouldn’t have your outgoings £2m more than your incomings every year. 

“We’re not in immediate danger, but lose £2m a year? If you look at how you’d address that — what’s the biggest cost? It’s player salaries. We don’t have any immediate plans (to reduce wages further) but in future, we have to balance the books.”

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