Why Super League's salary cap should be cut - Leeds Rhinos chief

Betfred Super League’s salary cap should be cut next season, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington claims.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 6:07 pm
Leeds signed Konrad Hurrell - front row, second from right - as a marquee player ahead of the 2019 season. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds signed Konrad Hurrell - front row, second from right - as a marquee player ahead of the 2019 season. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Clubs can spend up to £2.1m on players, but the competition is understood to be split between those wanting the limit reduced and others who believe it should go up.

Rugby league’s Covid-19 shutdown has led to players and staff being placed on furlough and taking pay cuts and Hetherington says no club will have £2.1m to spend in 2021.

“This issue is not going to go away this year; we are still going to have the same issue next year,” warned the Rhinos chief.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“For those clubs who can afford to play the full salary cap, good luck to them. If they don’t have to make cuts they must have a remarkably robust business.

“I am not sure any of those clubs exist in rugby league, certainly not at Leeds. It is simple economics, every sport in the world is going to be reducing their costs.”

Hetherington believes Rhinos, with 150 staff and a large, diverse business, have bigger problems than other clubs.

“We have got to make cuts right throughout our organisation,” he confirmed. “All the income streams will be down, every sector will be making cuts and players are just one aspect of that

Leeds Rhinos' players have taken a pay cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“All Super League clubs will be way under the salary cap this year because of the cuts they’ve implemented, so they have to look carefully at their expenditure in 2021. It is an on-going process and it does affect some clubs more than others.”

Spending the full cap is not mandatory, but Hetherington warned: “If, for example, 10 clubs reduce their wage bill and two decide they have a wealthy benefactor or sponsor and decide they can take advantage and spend the full cap, they could have a squad that on paper might be £500,000 more expensive than anyone else.

“That could lead to an imbalance in the competition, a competition which over the last couple of years has demonstrated it is more competitive now than ever before.

“That is an essential aspect of Super League, that every club has the ability to spend the same amount of money and therefore, on paper, has the same chance of winning the competition.”

Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity are among five other clubs believed to be in favour of reducing the cap. The rest - including Warrington Wolves who have signed Aussie superstar Greg Inglis for 2021 - are either against or undecided.

A decision three years ago led to the cap being increased from £1.825m to £1.9m for 2018, £2m in 2019 and £2.1m this season.

Hetherington recalled: “When the cap got increased in 2017 it was on a six-six vote.

“There was a complete split and it got through on the casting vote of the chairman at the time.

“It was contentious then and it has always been contentious. When it was introduced 20-odd years ago it was contentious and some clubs fought tooth and nail against it, so it is always going to be an emotive issue.

“It is a live issue and inevitably clubs will have different views on it, but the reality is this epidemic we are all battling against has very serious consequences for the game and for individual clubs.

“All clubs are suffering the pain of 2020 and it is inevitable all clubs will suffer a financial loss throughout 2020.

“There is a realisation now that this is going to impact probably even more in 2021. It is inevitable every club will have a financial loss in 2021 as well.

“No club can say with any certainty what its losses are going to be this year - and certainly not in 2021 - but we all know we have got a very serious financial situation on our hands and we are going to have to deal with it appropriately.”

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