French rugby’s plans for the Top 14 to checkmate Europe could take more pieces off the board for South Africa.
Reports from France have confirmed that SARU’s counterparts in France, League National de Rugby (LNR), will next week discuss the possibility of introducing an exemption for one “marquee player” from each Top 14 club’s salary cap, effective from the 2019/20 season.
As things stand, Top 14 clubs have a cap of €11.3m per season (R185m) which equates to an average of R5m per player in a 35-man squad. The cap on English Premiership clubs, who already have an exemption for two marquee players, is roughly €8m (R130m).
If the LNR adopts the proposed plan to exempt marquee players it is understood that they would also reduce the Top 14 cap by between R5m and R8m, but the net result would have negative implications for SA Rugby.
The Top 14’s multi-millionaire club owners have previously had to balance their appetite for the best players in the Southern Hemisphere against making provision for the rest of the squad. An exemption would make each club’s best player ‘free’, in terms of the salary cap, and spark an arms war between rugby’s richest benefactors in England and France for Sanzaar’s biggest weapons.
It would also counteract SA Rugby’s hopes of generating a player backwash by flooding the European market with talent through the switch to a match-fees payment model.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal could conceivably secure the services of Malcolm Marx from 2020 to 2022 with a record-setting deal that doesn’t affect the club’s ability to surround the Bok hooker with blue-chip talent and stay under the cap.
And when that trend is applied across 14 teams in France, and 12 in England, it’s possible that 26 of the Southern Hemisphere’s best players will be accounted for before the those clubs have even started counting beans against the salary cap, and before the Pro14 has cherry-picked the leftovers.
— Staff Writer