In the wake of Kyle Eastmonds announced defection to Rugby Union at the end of the Super League season there have been a number of very interesting reactions.
Calls to raise the Super League salary cap, to pay Super League players more money, to form a players unions, central contracts, expansion, contraction…..everyone has an opinion!
Martin Offiah, Chev Walker and other players launched into Twitter last night, venting their fury that they were not being paid enough money and more should be done to keep players in Super League.
This comes on the back of other players making similar claims in recent months.
Its all great, but there are so many issues with the simplistic ideas that are being tossed up.
Raising The Salary Cap
If you doubled the salary cap tomorrow, you know what would happen?
Most of the teams in Super League would shrug their shoulders, it would have no effect on them. They can not afford to spend up to the current Super League salary cap figure right now, and money isn’t going to magically appear.
For the teams that could spend more money on players, they would do one of two things.
They would pick the eyes out of other smaller clubs, something they already do, and, they would make huge money offers to NRL players.
So the supposed benefits that home grown Super League players would see from raising the salary cap actually wouldn’t materialize. On top of that, in a competition where two teams are on negative points because they went into administration over the off season, giving a push to clubs to spend more money would see more clubs go broke.
In the long run what would that mean? Less clubs, less professional positions available, less money to players. A really dumb idea.
Cost Effective Players
There is a reason home grown Super League players don’t get as much money as they think they are worth. They aren’t worth it.
Why would a club spend a large chunk of money on a Kyle Eastmond when they could spend that same amount of money an import, who is going to provide them with better on field performances and be a hell of a lot more reliable.
The best player in Super League last year was an Australian winger who never played representative football back home. The year before that, it was an old Australian fullback who’s didn’t play much rep football back in Australia.
If you go through every single Super League club, they are built around a base of cost effective imports. From the Jamie Lyon’s to the Brad Davis’, the Super League era has been all about imports.
Ask St Helens fans right now what they would rather, spend a heap of money on Kyle Eastmond, or try and lure Brett Kimmorely or Trent Barrett out of retirement to lead the team?
Would they rather Kyle Eastmond or see Jamie Lyon return?
There is a reason these imports excite fans in Super League. They are better players. They are exciting players. They are the reason clubs win titles. They are cost effective.
Market English Stars So They Stay In The Game
I’m not really sure how this one is magically supposed to work.
If the RFL had a budget to market anything, putting all their eggs into one basket and marketing a handful off players seems like a stupid way to go to me.
If Kyle Eastmond was heading to Rugby Union, and he’d been the face of Rugby League for the last couple of years, the RFL would have spent the last couple of years investing and promoting a person who just ditched them!
The RFL markets games and clubs because, um, Rugby League is a game, played between clubs. Does anyone honestly believe that people will turn up it it was marketed as “Watch Lee Briers take on Kyle Eastmonds this weekend at the home of the club Martin Offiah used to play for”?
Not only that, imagine the wonderful PR disaster in having marketed a Terry Newton, a Ryan Hudson or Leon Pryce and the like. Wouldn’t that just be fantastic.
Offiah and Hanley Got Paid More Money For A Reason
Martin Offiah made the comment on Twitter that himself and Ellery Hanley made more money in the early 1990’s than most players in Super League make today.
You wanna know why that is? Because they were worth it!
Both were truly World Class players of their time. Both were fantastic players that could change the prospects of a club. Both were equals of any players in Australia or New Zealand and both players attracted people to the game.
Can you imagine if Martin Offiah started his Rugby League career today? Can you imagine the crowds he would draw, the money his presence would pump into a club and into the game in general.
He and the likes of Ellery Hanley were worth the money they were paid back then because they generated money through their ability to win games and draw thousands of causal fans to the game to watch them play.
How many current home grown Super League players can claim to have anywhere near the ability, or pull of these players?
Forming A Players Union
I’m almost certain I’ve seen a players union being mentioned over the last few years, I’m pretty sure one exists. Still, there was talk from Offiah (Who was very outspoken on this topic) that the Super League players should form a union.
The idea was that, a players union could push for better conditions for players, things like minimum contracts and higher pay.
Thats great, but if the money is not there, its not there.
Another major problem I see is that, any player union’s big bargaining chip is that the players will strike of their demands were not met.
Can you imagine what would happen if Super League players went on strike? It would be like a gold rush for players in the lower divisions in Australia and New Zealand!
So you take say the top 20 home grown Super League players and artificially boost their contracts through central contracts.
They don’t become better players. In fact, as we saw the last time that happened, you can expect players earning central contracts to know they are locked into a big deal and cruise through it.
The other thing is, would Kyle Eastmond have even got a central contract anyway? I know Chris Ashton definitely wouldn’t. So if the idea is that a central contract system was to stop players leaving Super League, would we have all wanted the RFL to pay inflated prices for these players?
Not only that, what do you think would happen when the next youngster comes to the end of his contract? Of course, he is going to Rugby Union, unless the RFL gives him a central contract.
Rinse and repeat. Who wants that?
Contracting The Competition
The idea is that fewer teams mean clubs get a bigger slice of the pie, which means more money to spend on players. Its a fantastic idea!
It means less places available to players of course, but who cares about that, right? It also means less content to sell sponsors and media partners, but who cares about that!
The London Harlequins have had a decent start to the season, and the coverage they have got after just a few wins has been amazing. They are a team in the biggest market in Super League and yet their crowds are terrible and financially, well, it wouldn’t take much for them to fall over.
They would be one of the first axed in a player pushed contraction, and yet, they have the potential to be one of the games money spinners.
So who do you get rid of? If you can’t get rid of the expansion clubs, you have to get rid of the clubs in established areas. These are normally the more financially viable clubs.
So you get rid of the viable clubs to get more money? Hmmm, this ones not a winner.
Just Get A Better Television Deal
Offiah pointed to the NRL’s billion dollar television deal and asked why Super League TV deal was so poor. The fact is, trying to sell Super League is a tough sell.
The quality of football is not good. The clubs are mostly based in small towns in northern England, tiny television markets. The expansion clubs are terribly run, so there is no hope that TV stations can bank of a strong London team boosting their TV viewing figures….and that’s what it all comes down to.
At the end of the day the Super League product isn’t worth massive amounts of money. TV company’s just aren’t buying it.
Imagine holding the rights to show a competition that had two clubs enter administration. That has only had a few teams win the competition over the last decade. Who’s biggest stars are not even English. Who’s best clubs are based in small towns.
All these are reasons why the competition hasn’t got a massive TV deal. Its just not worth it in its current format.
Forming A Break Away Competition
This was tossed up believe it or not.
So lets say the top 8 clubs break away from the RFL and form their own competition. A Super League if you will. So you sell it to a TV company and…..wait…..didn’t we try this one already?
There is not a single person on this planet that doesn’t think they deserved more money. Some people probably do, but the fact of the matter is, if you want more money, you have to be able to generate more money.
Home grown Super League players simply don’t generate the money to demand pay rises. Its that simple.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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