‘Now is not the time to take a step back and stifle progress’: Bristol Bears owner Stephen Lansdown warns Premiership Rugby against plans to reduce £7m salary cap amid financial struggles cause by coronavirus
- Bristol Bears have made it clear they would oppose reducing the salary cap
- West Country club are the richest in the Premiership, with an owner worth £2bn
- They have signed Kyle Sinckler and Fijian Semi Radradra for the next campaign
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Bristol Bears have warned Premiership Rugby risks ‘stifling progress’ if plans to reduce the league’s £7m salary cap and scrap marquee player allowances go through.
The ambitious West Country side are the richest in the league with owner Stephen Lansdown worth around £2bn.
Amid speculation Premiership clubs are keen to bring down the salary cap, in the chaotic financial aftermath of coronavirus, and Lord Myners’ recent review into the pay ceiling – which suggested ‘marquee’ players whose salaries sit outside the limit should be binned – Lansdown outlined Bristol’s position.
Bristol Bears have warned Premiership Rugby risks ‘stifling progress’ if salary caps are reduced
The Bears will vehemently contend any moves to reduce spending.
That comes as no surprise as Pat Lam’s side have signed England prop Kyle Sinckler and Fijian superstar Semi Radradra for next season – both believed to be on £500,000-a-year deals – and have the highest paid player in the league, Charles Piutau on around a £900,000 salary.
In an open letter, Lansdown wrote: ‘To continue to drive the commercial growth of the game, we must keep the best players in the Premiership.
‘The right high-profile internationals encourage investment, appeal to new audiences and aid team performance. This challenging period should be used as an opportunity to reflect and explore how we can keep developing rugby through bold, innovative ideas.
‘Now is not the time to take a step back and stifle progress.
‘That is why we support the current salary cap. We believe the Premiership should foster and encourage ambition, while ensuring that clubs show financial prudence and planning.
Coach Pat Lam was already expecting new additions for next season before coronavirus hit
‘In previous seasons, Bristol Bears have not spent up to the salary cap. Instead, we have made the right decisions – in recruitment and for the business – to ensure that we can be competitive while still meeting the Premiership’s salary requirements.
‘In addition, the club believe strongly in protecting the marquee rule. Not only do we have long term contractual obligations that we have planned and budgeted for, it’s difficult to compete at the highest level domestically and in Europe without the ability to recruit the best players.
‘The Premiership is the best rugby competition on the planet. Removing the best talent would dilute the appeal and impact on its ability to compete in the global market.
‘High quality rugby in front of large crowds breeds healthy competition and is only a good thing for the sport and its long-term sustainability.
‘With a world class training facility, stadium and young squad hungry for silverware, Bristol Bears want to continue to show ambition and to aspire to achieve great things.’
England forward Kyle Sinckler was one of the stars preparing to join on a £500,000 deal
As Premiership clubs lose around £50m a year between them, and are in various stages of financial meltdown having had next-to-no income since March, many clubs would be keen to reduce costs.
The biggest outlay clubs make is on player salaries, which have sky-rocketed in recent years.
Increasingly many view the combined £14m spent on the 24 current ‘marquee’ players such as Piutau as a grotesque and unsustainable overspend.
Any changes to spending regulations would need a majority vote in favour among the 13 Premiership Rugby Ltd shareholders – the 12 top-flight clubs and Newcastle Falcons.
But Bristol do not want to budge.
‘We have a clear vision,’ said Landsdown.
‘It’s on the walls of our building and underpins everything we do.
‘Our relentless ambition is to win trophies and dominate in Europe. We have a detailed, long-term strategy to achieve these goals and the wheels are already in motion.’
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