Aviva Premiership
Premiership clubs handed salary cap boost
ESPNscrum Staff
May 26, 2011
Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby chief executive,  J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series launch, Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham, London, July 1, 2010
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has highlighted the positives from this season © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Mark McCafferty
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership
Teams: England

Premiership clubs are to be allowed make one marquee signing, outside of the salary cap, as of the 2012-13 season.

The ground-breaking move is one of a series of measures set to be introduced by Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing English rugby's top clubs, in a bid to retain the country's leading players and attract the world's best talent.

In a statement released on Thursday, Premiership Rugby revealed that the salary cap will remain at a base of £4m next season, as it has been for the previous three, but the introduction of academy credits will offer further financial breathing room.

Clubs will get a credit in the salary cap of £30,000 per player, up to eight players, for home-grown talent in their senior squads - meaning the maximum spend will be a total of £4.24m.

As in previous Rugby World Cup seasons, in 2011-12 only there will also be a credit of £30,000 for each international player participating, in order to help clubs manage the reduced number of players available to them in the opening weeks of the season.

In 2012-13, the base salary cap will increase to £4.26m, rising to a maximum of £4.5m with the continuation of the academy credits. In addition however, a club may choose to nominate a 'qualifying' player to be excluded from the salary cap.

The exact detail of the qualification criteria has yet to be agreed but the "rough parameters" agreed by the clubs allow for an overseas signing to excluded from the salary cap or for a player acquired from a rival English club to be discounted. However, in the case of the latter, the player has to have been with the club for "a period of time".

Premiership Rugby explained that the policy, that for example could see Leicester could exclude Ben Youngs if they wished but not Newcastle immediately after signing him, is intended to, "ensure as far as possible that clubs keep players they have developed and there isn't an inflationary market in top English players moving from club to club".

"This will provide all the clubs with further capacity to retain our world-class English talent as well as attract some of the most talented foreign players," the original statement said. "At the same time, we shall be able to maintain the clubs' success and protect the basic competitiveness of the competition."

In order to manage the overall financial position in a sustainable way, Premiership Rugby has also revealed that for 2013-14 and 2014-15 the level of the base salary cap will be linked directly to annual central revenue distributions to the clubs.

Explaining the strategy, which was agreed unanimously by the clubs, Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby said: "Looking forward, the continuing success of our expansion strategy to 2015 will depend significantly on our development of playing talent to world-class levels, our retention of that talent in England and the continued attraction of some of the world's best players.

"This combination will add significantly to the attraction of our competition to supporters, viewers and partners. Our successful growth will also continue to depend on striking the right balance between the investment in playing talent and the continued long-term financial stability of clubs. The clubs have agreed how best to strike the right balance.

"This season was the first under our strategic plan which builds towards Rugby World Cup in England in 2015. Our clubs have achieved success this season in Europe and also made the Aviva Premiership the highest try scoring competition in the northern hemisphere.

"It has been a breakthrough season for a talented group of young players and on average 68% of players in the Aviva Premiership every weekend are English qualified. Based on our collective financial strategy and the continued commitment to developing English players, we have been able to make changes to the salary cap through until 2015 which we believe will further strengthen the playing and commercial success of the competition."

Reflecting on the current season, Premiership Rugby revealed a 15% increase in viewing figures for both live coverage on ESPN and Sky and for the ITV highlights show transmitted on ITV4 and ITV1.

From a rugby perspective, the Premiership also ended the regular season as the highest try-scoring major league in the Northern Hemisphere with average tries per match of 3.84 (Magners League: 3.64; Top 14: 3.75) although they trailed France's top division in points per game (Top 14: 43.49; Premiership: 41.90; Magners: 40.05) and average attendance (Top 14: 14,035; Premiership: 11,880; Magners: 7,318).

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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