Salary cap cut: Premiership Rugby ready to squeeze players' pay

Premiership Rugby’s £7m salary cap could be reduced to mitigate impact of coronavirus pandemic as leading figures insist players’ wages cannot keep growing once the action returns

  • Premiership Rugby’s £7million salary cap could be reduced due to coronavirus 
  • Temporary 25 per cent salary cuts could become permanent after the pandemic
  • Exeter chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter says that salaries can’t keep growing 
  • There is also a possibility second ‘marquee’ player allowance could be scrapped
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

The Premiership’s £7million salary cap could be reduced to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, with leading figures insisting player wage inflation must be curtailed. 

As the pandemic continues to bite into rugby’s finances, there is a growing feeling that players earn more than the sport can afford and temporary 25 per cent salary cuts adopted by a number of clubs could become permanent in a post-coronavirus world. 

Rob Baxter, director of rugby at Exeter Chiefs, the league’s only profit-making side, believes salaries cannot keep growing.  

The Premiership’s £7million salary cap could be reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic

The league’s cap regulations need to be altered to stop Saracens breaking the ceiling again 

‘Rugby clubs have been losing money on the whole and this pandemic won’t help,’ he said. 

‘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.’  

Sportsmail can reveal there could be moves to reduce the £7m cap as a way of controlling spending, and that the second ‘marquee’ player allowance could be scrapped. 

Exeter chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter is adamant that salaries cannot keep growing

Scotland international Stuart Hogg reportedly earns £550,000 a season at Exeter Chiefs

Currently clubs are allowed two stars whose salaries do not count towards the salary cap. For instance, Bristol full back Charles Piutau is reported to earn around £900,000 a season. 

Many see marquee player salaries, which can be five times that of an average squad member, as unsustainable.

Lance Bradley, Gloucester’s chief executive, agreed with Baxter that the player wage bubble will burst.   

‘As much as you love rugby as a sport, you have to look at it as a business,’ he said. 

‘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.’ 

Clubs are allowed two stars whose salaries don’t count towards the salary cap, such as Bristol full back Charles Piutau, who earns £900,000 a season

Any move to reduce the cap, which was extended to £7m from £6.5m in 2017, would have to be agreed across the league and may be opposed by the few rich clubs. Premiership Rugby would not comment on cap matters but are in the midst of a ‘comprehensive review’ of the salary ceiling.

It is clear, however, that the league’s cap regulations will have to be altered to stop Saracens breaking the ceiling again in the Championship next year. 

The disgraced champions, who were relegated and fined £5.36m earlier in the season for consistent salary cap breaches, will repay hundreds of thousands of pounds in deferred wages to stars such as Owen Farrell next season, as well as normal salaries. 

So if the Premiership’s salary cap manager Andrew Rogers does not rule that those repayments are backdated to count in this season’s cap, Sarries risk going over in the 2020-21 season. Usually money is counted in the season it is paid to players. 

World Rugby is providing an £80million relief fund to help national unions. 

Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: ‘Global sport is facing a crisis and at this most challenging time we are taking unprecedented action. We are also committed to supporting emerging nations.’ 

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