ENGLISH rugby’s bumper new television deal with BT Sport could trigger further relaxation of the salary cap as Premiership chiefs ponder radical changes to the top flight.
The amount teams may spend on player wages is already set to increase next season from the current limit of £4.8m plus one marquee player exempt from calculations to £5.1m and two exempt players.
But the Premiership is ready to sanction a further rise after yesterday announcing a new four-year deal with BT Sport until 2021 believed to be worth around £70m per season – 80 per cent up on the current terms.
“We have got the salary cap levels in place for the 2015-16 season next year, and we will start discussions with the clubs over the next few months on the cap for 2016-17 onwards,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty. “No doubt the new BT deal gives us some certainty against which to plan those discussions.”
Wasps chief executive David Anderson told City A.M. earlier this month that his club supported a robust salary cap despite expecting their move to Coventry to see them become the biggest-earning side in Europe within a year.
Teams are also ready to discuss expanding the top division from 12 to 14 teams and suspending promotion and relegation for several seasons in the name of encouraging stability.
“Those plans are being looked at correctly, and we’d only do it if it’s right for the English game. There’s no definitive timescale in place, but it’s on the agenda for discussions at the moment,” McCafferty added.
“One of the more attractive ideas mooted in the past is that perhaps there is a period of time during which there is no relegation, and that we expand the league carefully over two or three years without relegation.
“That allows clubs then to really make the investment on and off the pitch which is going to give them the best possible chance to be competitive.”
Bristol, Worcester and Yorkshire Carnegie, who all retain shares in the Premiership despite currently playing in the second tier, would be leading candidates to be included in an expanded top flight.