Aviva Premiership Rugby is set to increase the league’s salary cap by 10 per cent in future seasons, and will also allow clubs to sign a second “excluded” player from overseas.
Clubs’ spending on player wages is currently capped at £5m, but the Aviva Premiership will permit a further £500,000 spending ahead of the 2015-2016 season.
Premiership Rugby’s chief executive Mark McCafferty said the rise “will help clubs retain the best English players.”
The league currently allows each club to have one “excluded” player on the books whose wages fall outside the salary cap, but that number can be doubled next season providing the player is signed from overseas.
The Premiership's spending power has often struggled to keep up with its rivals’, meaning the best overseas talent has gone elsewhere while some England internationals such as Steffon and Delon Armitage and Toby Flood have flocked to France.
French Top 14 league clubs have a larger salary cap of €8.7m (£6.93m) to work with, however Premiership Rugby's current cap does top those currently imposed on Australian clubs in Super Rugby - who have a $A5m (£2.78m) limit - and Welsh clubs in the Pro12 league, who are limited to £3.5m.
European and southern hemisphere clubs must also fend off competition from the wealthy Top League in Japan. In 2012 All Blacks World Cup hero Sonny Bill Williams reportedly earned $NZ1.7m (£1.4m) for a 12 game stint in the division.
Premiership Rugby’s salary cap adjustments could see clubs able to tempt Australian stars such as Will Genia and Quade Cooper into a move to English shores. Genia has been tipped to have agreed a contract with Bath, while Beale and Cooper’s contract talks with the Australian Rugby Union have stalled.
However, for Premiership Rugby, the motivations behind the increase seem to be motivated primarily at improving the standard of the England national team, while also adding to the league’s “TV and commercial values”.
The number of England qualified players in Aviva Premiership Rugby is at record levels and we want to push those numbers even higher.We currently have more than 70% of matchday squads qualified to play for England and we want to maintain this to ensure England is in great shape not only the 2015 Rugby World Cup but also for 2019 and beyond. It is an essential part of our league and the strength of our system. The rise in the salary cap will help our clubs retain the best English players.We are also 100% behind the RFU’s policy of only selecting players from Aviva Premiership Rugby and the development of the salary cap is also another big step towards helping the England team and head coach Stuart Lancaster.From the 2015-16 season clubs will be able to nominate a second ‘excluded’ player. This will allow our clubs to attract the best players from other competitions who will add to our TV and commercial values. The second ‘excluded’ player must be new to Aviva Premiership Rugby in 2015-16 season and/or has not played in the competition for at least 12 months.
Premiership Rugby will also end the “academy credit” system, which allows each club eight £30,000 credits for players from the club's academy and aged 24 or younger. In its place will come a “home grown player” credit system which will drop the age limit and allow £400,000 worth of credits on academy players.