In my previous article, I wrote about how a small number of loss-making French and English clubs are causing a wages arms race. This arms race is threatening the competitiveness and financial sustainability of professional rugby worldwide.
I believe that World Rugby must decisively take hold of the situation. In this article, I suggest some rules they can enforce to do so.
1. Incentivise Player Development
The world game cannot thrive without good player development. Wealthy clubs and their backers have the potential to assist greatly in this by investing in youth schemes.
This is good for the national team and can be very effective for the club. For example, Saracens have developed a solid core of homegrown talent that is the backbone of both England’s and their own recent success.
However, whenever a club – or school or union – entices players from elsewhere they are acting as a parasite, sucking some of the lifeblood out of whoever developed the player without giving anything back. This system actually incentivises taking players for free now, rather than spending time and money growing the future.
I would like to see a mandatory compensation system, with substantial payments to either the developing club(s) or union, or a fund to supplement the remuneration of their remaining players. For the “rich,” this will both reduce their buying power and incentivise their own player development. It will also make it easier for the “poor” to develop and/or retain players.
2. End persistent deficit spending
Winning sporting trophies through deficit spending is sometimes referred to as “financial doping.” It is likened to athletes gaining an unfair advantage by taking drugs because a club is able to buy better players than their opponents. It also makes it much easier to entice players from elsewhere by offering artificially high wages.
The obvious answer is to regulate it. For instance, a club is not allowed to bring in players if they haven’t on average broken even over the past three years.
The obvious question is how easy will it be to enforce; we will look to soccer to see how UEFA goes with its Financial Fair Play rule. But at the very least, it should put an end to the worst excesses.
3. Foreign player quotas
Having too many foreigners in club rugby hurts the national team because there are fewer homegrown players available for the test team. France is a prime example of this.
Countries like Ireland and New Zealand have strict rules on this. Worldwide, I would set a limit of say 30% of a 15, 23 and wider squad that aren’t born in the club’s country. This would close the loophole whereby clubs currently recruit very young players to beat residency rules. Having read of the plight of some such players, I would also require that everyone brought in from overseas earn a minimum wage and have a suitable severance package.
I would also abolish the residency rule for test rugby for anybody who moved to a country in order to play rugby.
4. Let’s discuss it!
Those are my ideas. What do you think of them and what would you do?
Author: JD Kiwi
JD Kiwi currently lives in northern England, trying to find enough waking hours to work, be a devoted family man, and watch too much rugby. He supports the All Blacks, Chiefs and Waikato but also enjoys watching European rugby.
As a player he was was the shortest lock and slowest pace bowler in New Zealand. His favourite sporting achievement was winning the annual bowling cup for his small town Second XI.