Premiership Rugby – does the cap still fit?

Nigel Wray’s business ventures with four England players have seen current Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens accused of manipulating salary cap provisions.

The integrity of the salary cap has been under scrutiny before. Once again the purpose of the Premiership Rugby salary guidelines is the focus of attention.

The charge

A Sportsmail investigation for the Daily Mail has uncovered business ventures between Saracens owner, Nigel Wray, and four England players: Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth.

The suggestion is these dealings may have broken Premier Rugby Ltd’s (PRL) salary cap regulations.

  • The salary cap is currently £7m, with two players also excluded
  • ‘Homegrown’ players and those away on international duty also receive credits.

Regulation breaches, if proven, could cast severe doubt on the integrity of the game.  This ‘financial doping’ could provide an unfair competitive advantage for those involved.

Investigation and transparency

PRL will consider all information presented to them and determine if any action needs to be taken. A Saracens Rugby statement confirmed ‘the Club readily complies with Premiership Rugby salary regulations and information relating to remuneration is declared to salary cap manager.’

There have been allegations of salary cap breaches before. PRL were provided with details of potential breaches in 2014.  It did, however, take until late 2015 for those investigations to conclude with an out of court settlement.

The manner of the investigation and perceived lack of transparency by PRL in identifying those clubs involved and the nature of the alleged breaches, led to accusations that PRL were attempting to brush the issue under the carpet.

While ‘certain issues were pursued’ PRL felt ‘there had been no breaches’.  PRL released no further details citing ‘commercial confidentially’ as the reason.

Both Wasps, in 2018, and Harlequins earlier this year, have been fined for ‘overruns’ of the cap level. Though in both cases PRL agreed they were ‘not a breach of regulations’ and ‘no suggestions they were deliberate.’

The overruns amounted to £40,528 and £12,480, with fines of £20,264 and £6,240 respectively.

But these current allegations are far more serious. They are alleged to have been going on for a number of years. If proven, then under the regulations PRL could seek severe financial penalties and even a points deduction.

Competitive advantage

As in any sport, clubs always look to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals, both on and off the pitch.  Saracens are certainly no different in that regard.

To maintain the integrity of competition, any advantage gained from deliberate regulation breaches, where proven, have to be dealt with in the harshest permissible terms. Not only to act as a deterrent for others, but to give stakeholders confidence in the product on show.

For too long now, ‘whispers’ of how PRL clubs have been flouting the salary cap regulations have been commonplace amongst fans and commentators alike.

For the average rugby fan, PRL must provide the game and its stakeholders with the transparency they deserve. And sort the issue out once and for all.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see where manipulations and obfuscation could occur though, with regulations that currently run to fifty-seven pages.


Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images