The days of each Gallagher Premiership club having two marquee players on their roster whose salaries are separate from the £7million salary cap could be numbered following the publication of the Lord Myners salary cap review report. The extensive 55-page report has revealed that the 24 best-paid players for the 2019/20 season cost their various clubs a total of £14million – with seven of these highest-remunerated players not listed as ‘marquee’.

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Myners’ brief for his investigation, which was commissioned by Premiership Rugby boss Darren Childs in December, was to report on the regulations regime, not an additional review of the Saracens case or its handling even though it was relevant to the context in which he began reviewing the salary cap. 

The first marquee player allowance was introduced in 2012/13 and a second was allowed from 2015/16, but Myners has concluded that with the game in serious financial trouble due to the coronavirus pandemic, the time is ripe for to review the usefulness of the marquee player system. 

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Writing in the report, Myners said: “There are some existing areas of the regulations that are obviously not widely supported. Quite a few clubs expressed a desire to end the marquee player system on the grounds that it is inflationary, overcomplex and unnecessary. I have a great deal of sympathy with this position.

“Indeed, I have come to the conclusion that the existence of exemptions and allowances cause both confusion and inflation. Particularly at a time of financial hardship such as all participants now face, it seems wrong to me to continue making exceptions to the principle of the regulations which can drive costs only in one direction – up.

“Marquee players are the most obvious example. Under regulation 3.3, clubs are entitled to nominate up to two marquee players each season whose salaries are unlimited and not taken into account under the cap. 

“This was introduced to help the competition grow with star quality players (both from home and abroad). This enabled clubs to recruit and retain some of the very best players from around the world and add commercial value to the PRL product. It also played to the objective of improving the performance of PRL clubs in European competition 

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“In 2013/14, there were five players in the Premiership with a total cost to their employing club – including such extra costs as agents’ fees and image rights – of at least £300,000. In 2019/20, this number had risen to 99 players. 

“It’s also worth noting that seven of this season’s 24 highest-remunerated players are not ‘marquee’. The 24 players in this cohort cost their various clubs a total of £14m in 2019/20.

“It’s clear to me, and to many others within the clubs, that the marquee-players exemption completely cut across the objectives of equality and competition and create unhelpful inflationary pressure on wages. The time is ripe for a review of their continued usefulness.”

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