SAINTS Chairman, Eamonn McManus, wrote in the Manchester Evening News this week:
Super League has entered an exciting new season in the best financial shape in its history. A well delivered and profitable World Cup has been followed with significant central sponsorships and a vastly improved long-term TV deal which pretty much ensures the solvency and competitiveness of all participating clubs for years to come – progress indeed.
These major financial strides forward were complemented by a well-reasoned RFL policy review on long-term player investment. This recommended, firstly and critically, improved investment in club academies to be underpinned by a recommended salary cap exemption above a certain threshold for elite club-trained players. This necessarily encourages and incentivises club investment in our own British lads and, equally importantly, enables the future equivalents of Sam Tompkins, Sam Burgess and James Graham to be kept within Super League if clubs are able and prepared to spend this proposed exemption. A second stage of the proposal was adopt a more broadly based “marquee player” salary cap exemption – effectively aimed at recruiting the best talent from the already very well funded Australian NRL. In my opinion the first element of the policy review is a current and critical necessity; however, the second element is presently an unnecessary and impractical inflationary luxury which can only seriously be considered when we are able first to retain our own best British talent.
I was therefore more than concerned when Super League clubs last week proposed to adopt only the marquee exemption but shelved the academy investment and home grown exemption proposals. It is the absolute reverse of what it should be. Sanity prevailed and the proposal was voted down. However, worryingly, the home-grown exemption was not even discussed; this must be re-tabled and adopted, and soonest.
Super League now faces a very similar strategic challenge from the NRL and from rugby union as the Bundesliga faced from the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga some years ago. They decided to retrench and prioritise invest in their own front yard. Bayern is now the club of choice for the world’s best players and managers, and Germany is again a favourite for the soccer World Cup. I am an unashamed English patriot and a proud rugby league fan. Our own national rugby league team and club sides can only ever achieve this same objective if we follow that most sensible of models, and we are now strongly positioned so to do.
That said, St.Helens have excitingly been able to recruit two stars of the NRL for this season. Luke Walsh was voted in the top six NRL players in last year’s prestigious Dally M Awards and has already proven a major new attraction for Super League. Big Mose Mosoe is potentially one of the most destructive impact props in world rugby league and is due to be unveiled in our home game this week – lots to get very excited about and even without salary cap dispensations I’m glad to report!