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Bradford Independent Supporters Association (BISA) today added their opinions on the current debate on the lowering of the salary cap and the recruitment of young players from service areas. The statement reads as follows:
"BISA is concerned that the proposal to lower the salary cap from ?1.8m to ?1.5m will have a detrimental effect on Rugby League. We are worried that the proposal to cut the cap limit seems not to be based on any financial planning but on a desire to see top clubs reigned in by clubs at a lower level. The case for lowering the cap as presented by club chairmen seems to be based on a basic rough figure they think the cap limit should be rather than any detailed research.
A cut in the cap of ?300k would mean a cut in player's wages of over ?1m in the next year for the game as a whole. BISA doubts that players would be happy to accept such a situation and asks if clubs proposing the salary cap reduction have spoken to the players union to ascertain their reaction.
All Rugby League fans are keen to see an exciting competition in Super League but BISA is doubtful that a lower cap would make this happen. Since Super League began in 1996 top flight Rugby League has seen the dominance of one team replaced with a competition where the top five clubs now have a realistic chance of attaining honours. If this trend continues a more even competition will be realised each season without the need for far-reaching and potentially risky rule changes. Some Rugby League officials have pointed to the successful NFL competition as the example to follow but that competition includes several clubs with virtually no chance of winning the title.
BISA sees a cut of ?300k from top-flight clubs player budgets as being likely to force players at the top level out of Super League to Rugby Union. Lower clubs have already admitted that many of them have player budgets very much lower than the current limit. BISA is sceptical that players on high salaries will accept lower salaries at other Rugby League clubs when faced with opportunities in Rugby Union. They would instead move to clubs in the top echelon of the game with money available or leave the sport altogether. This could lead to the sport been shorn of it's biggest stars and then suffer a drop in crowds at a time when the game is seeing an increase in viewing audiences.
Already Rugby League has lost players such as Jason Robinson, Iestyn Harris and Henry Paul to Rugby Union due to the lure of higher salaries. BISA is worried that a cut in the salary cap would tempt Rugby League players who would be the subject to wage restrictions if they stayed in their present sport.
BISA recognises the need for some kind of salary cap to protect some clubs from themselves to prevent them going into administration and to prevent the dominance of one club to the detriment of others. The current salary cap appears to be over complicated and confusing and BISA supports research into finding simpler and more transparent ways of organising a salary cap. However BISA is concerned that a poorly researched move to lower the cap may see clubs take action in the courts to remove the salary cap altogether.
BISA would like to see the Super League competition become more competitive but not at the price of losing world-class players that the game will need if an Ashes winning national team is to be generated.
Turning to the issue of player service areas BISA sees the issue of the lower salary cap being inextricably linked to service areas. If the cap is cut clubs will have to look at their own grassroots for players. BISA sees a problem in that some clubs have much more developed 'grass roots' than others. If clubs are restricted to recruiting only five players from outside their service area they are likely to suffer in comparison to those clubs with a large Rugby League heartland in their service area.
The result is likely to be a competition with an elite of clubs with a highly developed Rugby League service area. Clubs without those areas are unlikely to be able to sign large numbers of high quality players and the competition would be uneven and not be the 'level playing field' many clubs want to see.
Additionally young players would be unlikely to accept the restrictions imposed on them by service areas if they had their heart set on joining a particular club and likely to challenge this rule in the courts. BISA would like to see Rugby League avoid the negative publicity this would entail.
In summary BISA believes that if Rugby league clubs vote to lower the salary cap and continue with restrictions on player recruitment this would do little to help the game as a whole. A game where player choice is restricted and earnings are capped at a low level is hardly an attractive proposition to young players and would leave the game open to predatory attacks from Rugby Union. A more even competition may be achieved but it would one without its top stars and without any top quality young players taking up the game. Such a competition would be unsustainable and an unattractive proposition for players, sponsors and fans."
For more information about this statement please contact BISA Media Officer Sam Grundy.