Super League clubs have approved an increase to the salary cap as well as dispensations to slow the player drain from English rugby league and attract more top talent to the competition.
The £1.825m wage ceiling has risen only slightly since its introduction in 1999. In contrast NRL teams are allowed to spend around £4m per season on salaries. At a meeting in Manchester on Wednesday, the 12 clubs voted to raise the cap to £1.9m next season, with incremental increases for the two seasons thereafter: £2m in 2019, followed by £2.1m in 2020. The plans will go before the Rugby Football League board for formal ratification on Thursday.
Other proposals concerning dispensations to the cap, which were also approved, could have the biggest impact for rugby league in this country. Plans concerning “new returning talent” from other sports – such as the Wasps and former St Helens player Kyle Eastmond – were given the go-ahead and it is understood their salaries would be exempt from the cap for their first two seasons back in rugby league.
The plans have been spearheaded by the new Super League chief, Roger Draper, who wants to ensure the sport in this country gives itself the best chance of attracting leading players, as well as retaining the best talent currently in Super League.
“We have had a fantastic start to the season with some incredible action on the field,” Draper said. “The clubs asked the RFL to put forward a set of proposals that would help them retain and attract the best players to the competition and we believe when you consider them together, these changes could make a significant difference to helping clubs attract and retain the best talent and that is something we all are determined to do.”
Draper told the Guardian last month something had to be done about the stagnation of the cap and the player drain. When asked about the proposals, he said: “It could involve a change to the salary cap. When you look at the comparison chart, we’ve stayed flat and the NRL have shot off [the graph].”
The plans were not universally approved. It is understood the major proposals, including the dispensations and the salary cap increase, were voted through by seven votes to five. Another proposal to be approved, again on a 7-5 result, was on marquee players, with clubs now allowed two players in that bracket.
At present, clubs can nominate one player whose salary will total no more than £150,000 on the cap, with any wages over that amount exempt from the current total. Clubs have voted through proposals to double the amount of marquee players allowed, despite only a handful of clubs utilising the ruling since it came into being two years ago.