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Is the English Premiership facing a superstar 'brain drain'?

By Paul Smith
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Wasps boss Lee Blackett has voiced fears that the Gallagher Premiership will lose some of its glamour as a result of reductions to the salary cap.


Speaking prior to his team’s battling Midlands derby win over Leicester, Blackett acknowledged that the English game faces a huge challenge to pay the kind of wages which have previously brought leading international stars to the Premiership.

The Coventry-based club has been at the vanguard of the ‘marquee player’ market since its move from Wycombe in 2014 with Charles Piutau, Kurtley Beale and Willie le Roux all playing starring roles.

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Shaun Edwards on French

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But in the wake of rumours linking his club’s current All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Vaea Fifita with moves to United Rugby Championship outfits Munster and Scarlets, Blackett acknowledged that the current situation is very different.

“It’s very tough at the moment,” he told BT Sport’s Sarra Elgan.

“We’re in negotiations and where before Premiership clubs were strong and could outbid these teams we feel at this moment in time we potentially may lose players.

“Before we were able to pay players more but we can’t any more – we pay a lot less.”

Blackett refused to be drawn on the specifics of Fifita’s reported switch to Wales which if confirmed will take place only one year into a three-year contract.

“There’s a lot of rumours out there,” he said.


“He’s been devastating for us so far and in the next few weeks we’ll know a lot more about his future.”

The 25 per cent reduction in the headline level of the cap – from £6.4 million to £5 million – is the result of a decision taken by cash-strapped Premiership clubs during the COVID-19 impacted 2019/20 season.

In addition, the number of players whose costs sit outside the cap is being halved from two to one.

The decision to cut permitted spending levels was taken by Premiership Rugby Ltd, which is jointly owned by the 13 clubs currently operating in the top flight, of whom only Exeter have consistently broken even in the last decade.


Ironically, Wasps are by some distance the worst performers commercially with a balance sheet showing debt levels of over £60 million on the back of annual losses which have sometimes touched £10 million.


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