The RFL must stand firm on wage caps

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This week has seen Salford City Reds charged with alleged breaches of the wage cap rule in rugby league and it may prove a bitter blow for the Red Devils. With a deduction potentially totalling to 20 points, their supposed scheming wages could derail their season. However, it seems a hearty punishment like this may be exactly what’s needed to keep the money in rugby league at a controllable level.

For those unfamiliar with the rule, in rugby league, teams exceeding the wage ceiling of £1.825 million can face serious penalties. While to football fans in particular this rule may seem a little odd, it’s something the RFL (Rugby Football League) has stood by for a number of years. In a time of currency saturation in sport, rugby league is flying the flag for quashing the soaring trend.

Regarding the Salford issue, the sport’s governing body in the UK have released the following statement: “The RFL has issued charges in relation to alleged breaches of the RFL Operational Rules and Salary Cap Regulations concerning contractual arrangements made with Salford players in 2014 and 2015.”

“The charges will be considered by an independent Off Field Operational Rules Tribunal, at a date to be confirmed.”

Such allegations have sprouted from a high-profile display of concern by Bradford chairman Marc Green. The Bulls man cast Salford’s interaction with the cap over the past two years into question and in particular, surrounding their signing of Tony Puletua. Having moved to the AJ Bell Stadium in 2014 from St Helens, Puletua is believed to be sapping a hearty degree of Salford’s wage draft.

However, the prospect of a 20 point deduction is undoubtedly a scary one for Red Devils fans as such a large penalty could practically render their campaign redundant. Despite a promising start to the season with a sixth place standing, their hard work could amount to nothing. In fact, if it wasn’t for last-minute defeats to Wigan and Warrington, Salford would face the prospect of plummeting from even higher heights.

RLAlbeit the drama, Salford’s owner Marwan Koukash has remained incredibly calm. The Palestinian business man took to Twitter this week, stating: “I do not know what all this fuss is about. Calm down!!!” Furthermore, he has insisted to fans that the club has cooperated with the RFL in order to clear their name.

Money and sport will be forever entwined. However, this week’s allegations have proven yet another instance where the two have come hand in hand amidst controversy. Even when caps are put on wages, there will always be instances where the ceiling is pushed to its limits.

While this week’s revelations are mere allegations and not proven, it’s definitely worrying for rugby fans. Especially when you consider Salford may have been tinkering with the rules for two years, other teams will undoubtedly demand large punishments for such long-term offending.

It seems it does take the threat of a 20 point deduction to help cut out the law-breaking. Besides, in 2007, Wigan broke the same rule but only suffered a four point penalty. The RFL must continue to ramp up their punishments or the authority within the sport will trickle into the hands of the teams. Look at football, its organising body FIFA has a notoriously flimsy grip on the sport and as a result, the money involved has swelled to a laughable level. Sure, UEFA have introduced ‘Financial Fair Play’ but its influence has been minimal.

If Salford are found to be guilty then the RFL must exercise their power. They must ensure that rugby league doesn’t pander towards being just another sport to allow money to get out of hand. In sticking to their guns over the issue for so long, the RFL are flying the flag for economic control and they shouldn’t let an incident like this harm their admirable ethos.


Kobe Tong

YJA Senior Sports Correspondent