Aviva Premiership
Mixed response to extra marquee player allowance
ESPN Staff
September 19, 2014
Richard Cockerill is not convinced by the decision to allow an extra marquee player © Getty Images
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There has been a mixed response to the decision to allow Aviva Premiership clubs to sign an extra marquee player ahead of the 2015-16 season.

Premiership Rugby - the body in charge of the Premiership - confirmed the increased salary cap on Wednesday. Clubs are now permitted to spend up to £5.5m a year on wages with teams allowed to sign an extra marquee player whose wages sit outside of that limit. That player must not already be playing in the Premiership and may open the door for an influx of top overseas players.

For the Northampton Saints, ahead of their title-winning campaign they recruited British & Irish Lions Alex Corbisiero and George North but refrained from spending big ahead of this season with Jim Mallinder saying they were spending up to the salary cap. But with the new changes set to come into play ahead of next season, Saints chairman Tony Hewitt has given Mallinder permission to bring in another marquee signing.

"We've been party to those negotiations and because we're profitable, we're in that great position that we can afford to spend more than the salary cap," Hewitt told the Northampton Chronicle. "We only spend up to the salary cap now but we could go a little bit further if the cap is increased, which is what is being done.

Leveling the playing field

© Getty Images
  • Today's announcement was hardly a shock, predicted as it has been for some time. Amid the salary cap details, the news that two top 'excluded' players will be allowed instead of one is perhaps the most significant.

    The criteria for the second player - that they must not have played in the Premiership for 12 months preceding the contract - is clearly aimed at two areas. One is the English player lured abroad; clearly this is aimed at those playing in the Top 14. The second is the big-name foreign players who have tended of late to head to France.

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"We were in favour of it and we've said to Jim to look at using that money. He has [already been told to start identifying targets]."

The news was less well received by Tigers boss Richard Cockerill as he expressed misgivings over the allowance of a second marquee player. While Bath are reportedly closing in on the signing of Will Genia, Cockerill is not keen to go down the galactico route for fear of upsetting his team's balance.

"That is not Leicester's way of doing business," Cockerill told the Daily Telegraph. "It upsets the balance for us. We want guys to be here for the long haul. We want them to be here for three or four years, to become part of the city, part of the culture, with their families.

"A lot of guys come here and form an emotional attachment to the club and that is what we like to see happen. It is not everyone's way. Some want to go out and spend £7, 8, 900,000 on a Genia or a Richie McCaw or an Israel Folau. It won't be long before we see the first million-pound a season player. But you have got to be careful. We have got a lot of what you might call marquee players here anyway. Do you want to run the risk of upsetting that balance?"

And for Worcester Warriors boss Dean Ryan, in his column for the Guardian, he fears the change will increase the gap between those towards the top of the Premiership and the others. Ryan wrote: "I just have this niggling worry that it might be a step along the path to harming something which is pretty good."

He goes on to add: "Like Cockerill, I really don't like the idea of a short-term fix: a player coming into the Premiership after the World Cup and staying only as long as it doesn't damage his chances of appearing for his country at the following World Cup.

"That should not be what growing a side is about and I would argue that it's more likely to bring about the first million-pound player in this country than promote harmony within the ranks of clubs who have found that good academies and age-group structures are more important."

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