Bulls CEO weighs in on salary cap debate as Champions Cup looms
SPOTLIGHT: South Africa’s strong showing in the round-robin phase of the United Rugby Championship is proof that the salary cap was not a major hindrance.
However, things will get a lot more complicated next season when the Champions Cup gets added to an already busy schedule.
The Stormers, Bulls and Sharks all qualified for Europe’s premier franchise and club tournament and they will be needing some extra resources.
The Lions and Cheetahs will be participating in the second-tier Challenge Cup.
South Africa’s salary cap is currently lower than all the countries they will be competing against in Europe next season.
Squad depth is a concern that many pundits and fans have been talking about since it was revealed that South Africa’s teams will be involved in the Champions Cup.
However, Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone doesn’t expect too many changes to the salary cap.
“There are three South African teams in the quarterfinals, with two hosting play-off matches, so I think we have done really well,” said Rathbone.
“I think it is also important to note that the salary cap did not come about by SARU’s actions.
“It is a result of a decision by the players’ organisation [MyPlayers], as well as SAREO [South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation] – through their collective bargaining agreement.
“There are few important things. In the past few years most franchises, if not all, have been under the salary cap quite significantly and they are carrying credits on the cap.
“From my information currently, there is not one franchise that has reached its maximum of 50 [contracted] players.
“I think we are managing it quite well currently.
“There is a task team set up to look at possible changes going into next year, but I think the system is currently working and the results on the field have shown that over the last few months.
“I don’t expect massive changes, but maybe a slight increase in the number of players being contracted.”
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A bumper schedule
Rathbone said it’s still too early to make plans, as they are still in the dark about next season’s schedule.
“We haven’t received any details around the Champions Cup, so it’s very hard to comment on it.
“We need to see how it fits into the season – where the Currie Cup and URC will fit in.
“Only once we get that information, then we can really comment about how we will manage our squad between those competitions.
“Will the Currie Cup be a single or double round? When will it happen?
“That will all impact our playing numbers and what is needed for that part of the season.”
Rathbone explained how their budget works when it comes to the transfer market and squad numbers.
“Our budget on players is not determined only by the salary cap, it is determined by fixed revenue,” said Rathbone.
“Fixed revenue is sponsorship and distributions from SA Rugby out of broadcasting rights.
“Your flexible revenue is ticket sales and in the last two years, we saw how that can disappear very quickly.
“Our restraint that we look at is not the cap – we look for revenues to match what we want to spend on squad numbers.”