Premiership marquee players: Why they must go

Premiership Marquee Players: Why They Must Go

Following Lord Myners’ report into the Premiership salary cap, one of his recommendations was to look into getting rid of marquee players. Each Premiership team currently have two marquee player slots whose salary’s are exempt from the overall cap.

Over the years the purpose of these players has somewhat shifted. They began as a way to import a foreign talent designed to increase the profile of the club and league. However, this no longer seems to be the case. David Challis takes us through why Premiership marquee players should cease to exist, especially in this current climate.

The over-inflation of salaries

The structure of a Premiership club’s wage bill has become a topic of interest over the last eighteen months. Musings about the notion of a ‘squeezed middle’ have begun to creep into our conversations. This broadly means that the marquee players wages’ have set a precedent which forces clubs to pay other high profile individuals a similar salary.

This, in turn, causes a need for a reduction of wages elsewhere. What has happened specifically is that clubs hold onto young players on relatively low wages whilst offloading the middling players. This creates a strange wage structure dictated by extremes.

Doing away with marquee players in the Premiership would be a step in the direction of settling this truncation. In theory, with no marquee slots, wages should form a more traditional spread from low to high rather than having an artificially inflated top end with a distinct lack of a middle. All of this is part of creating a more sustainable wage structure which is more organic rather than manipulated.

The league no longer needs the profile

The other important thing to note about the marquee players in the Premiership is that they have lost their purpose. The word ‘marquee’ is defined as pre-eminent or someone in a starring role. The whole point of the marquee player slots was for teams to bring in greats of the game in order to boost the profile of the club and the league.

Looking across the league, these names appear few and far between without wishing to offend. Charles Piutau fits into this category as does Stuart Hogg buy beyond this the marquee player has somewhat faded into the squad, essentially becoming an extension on the salary cap.
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Additionally, the Premiership no longer requires the promotion it once did. The Pro14 fails to bring in crowd and TV viewers on the same scale. Super Rugby is also plagued with empty stadiums. The only real competition for the Premiership in terms of a commercial product is the French Top14.

The Premiership will never compete with the Top 14 in terms of salaries and a couple of marquee exemptions will not change this. The point remains though, if the purpose of the marquee players is to raise the profile of the Premiership then not only are they no longer doing this but they do not need to as the league lacks competition.

A way to reduce the cap

Premiership players’ salaries are currently one of the most talked-about topics in the sport given the lack of live-action. The overall consensus is that with the majority clubs consistently losing money there must be a reduction in salaries to create a sustainable game.

Removing the marquee players as part of a reduction in the salary cap seems to a palatable way of reducing wages across the board. Especially in this current climate, the notion of a marquee individual hardly seems tenable. Perhaps this is the most reasonable way to bring the salary cap back into line with reality.
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Concluding thoughts

Those in opposition to this will point out that by removing the marquee players, Premiership clubs will fail to compete in Europe. However, other aspects play a bigger role in European performance than two individuals.

What is needed is a move towards sustainability. Marquee players are the best place to start as they no longer hold a tenable position in the Premiership. This is especially true in the situation we find ourselves in.

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