RFL Should Back Marwan Koukash In His Chase For Sonny Bill Williams

The 2013 Super League season was a worrying one for fans of the sport in Great Britain. It felt like a tipping point had been reached as more clubs than ever faced financial oblivion while National Rugby League clubs officially began to cherry pick players they wanted from Super League clubs.

Pretty much the only shining light this season was the games introduction to Marwan Koukash.

Koukash stepped in and saved the Salford Reds. He looked around the rest of Super League and started to make changes to the club. He brought in a new coaching staff and made no bones about the fact he was willing to spend what ever it takes to make his club the best in the competition.

Koukash changed the clubs name to the Salford Red Devils and started buying up big. It was ironic that many Super League clubs that used the salary cap merely as a guide started to question how the Red Devils were able to spend so much on players.

Throughout this process Marwan Koukash was unapologetic.

Koukash, no doubt excited to find out that success is as easy as writing out a few cheques, found a love for Rugby League. As man with a very successful racing background, he is used to chasing success. International success.

Now Koukash is openly talking about luring the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Billy Slater to Salford. He went as far as to give Sonny Bill Williams and his manager a tour of the Red Devils facilities.

When it comes to luring superstar players anywhere in the world, money talks. Sure certain goals and ambitions are factored in, but at the end of the day you can lure any player to any club if you offer him enough money.

The money on offer these days in Super League is a world away from the National Rugby League. The truly elite players in the NRL start negotiating contracts at more than $1,000,000 per season. That doesn’t even take into account bonuses they receive for playing State Of Origin games or Test matches. It also doesn’t take into account personal sponsorship deals.

Just as a guide, it is rumoured that the Brisbane Broncos are offering Australian captain Cameron Smith $1.4 million per season to join them in 2015.

This means that any Super League club that is looking to lure a truly elite player away from the NRL will have to come up with a bank busting amount of money just to be part of the negotiation process.

I’ve been critical of the Sydney Roosters and the NRL this season in regards to Sonny Bill Williams and his impact on crowds and marketing. It seems as though officials are more than willing to sing his praises and talk about the direct financial boost he has provided to the game, yet no one has been willing to step up and make sure Sonny Bill Williams stays in the NRL.

My feeling is that if SBW really does add thousands to the gate at any game he plays in, and he has an impact on TV ratings, then pay him what he is worth to the game. Stop trying to undercut him by offering him less money than he is worth to the game.

That is where Marwan Koukash comes into the mix.

Koukash doesn’t have a board to answer to. He is the boss and what he says goes. If Marwan Koukash really wants to sign Sonny Bill Williams for his club, and he is willing to pay close to, if not more than $2 million per season to get him, Rugby Football League officials should tell him to go for it!

It would not only be a massive boost for the Salford Red Devils, but a boost for Super League as well. Sonny Bill Williams would be a player that administrators could use to draw in sponsors and get some more money into the game.

There is little doubt Sonny Bill Williams would boost Salford’s crowds in a big way. He would also boost crowds at away games the club played, putting money into the pockets of every other club in Super League.

Would it be a financially sound move by Salford themselves? Probably not. It’s highly unlikely they would earn back the money they spend on Sonny Bill Williams simply because Super League doesn’t have the ability to sell him to the same wide audience that the National Rugby League has the ability to in Australia and New Zealand.

Still, if Marwan Koukash is happy enough to put the money up just for the fun of it, why not allow it to happen?

There is an underlying issue here though. If you allow one club to spend well over the salary cap to secure even one marquee player, every other club is going to want to do the same thing. That is a massive issue in a competition where close on half the clubs are fighting for their lives right now to fend off going into administration.

There is no getting the genie back in the bottle once it is out. If you allow clubs to buy players outside of the salary cap (Which at its current level is already completely unsustainable) you are inviting clubs to spend themselves to death.

Even clubs that get by thanks to the charity of rich bakers, like Salford, would be in trouble. There is a big difference between tipping in money here and there to balance the books, and having to spend $1 million of your own money just to secure the services of one player. Only the extremely wealthy can manage to justify spending like that.

I really like Marwan Koukash simply for the fact that he has looked over Super League, realised the top clubs don’t play by the rules, and has made the decision that he will simply outspend everyone else to build a winning team.

Other clubs will whinge about what he is doing. Their fans will not realise that is why their own clubs win games too! Marwan Koukash is just going to play the game on a much bigger scale than anyone else can afford.

If that means we see Sonny Bill Williams and Billy Slater wearing a Salford Red Devils jersey, great! I say go for it! It’s his money, he is willing to spend it, he can more than afford it, and everyone will get some benefit out of it.

Would the Rugby Football League see the benefits of allowing a club to secure the likes of Sonny Bill Williams? Who knows! They are probably too busy selling the games soul as they negotiate hybrid contests no one wants to see played

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6 thoughts on “RFL Should Back Marwan Koukash In His Chase For Sonny Bill Williams

  1. The main content of your piece is absolutely correct . It is also true in addition to this that the salary cap in the UK has meant a two tier game since the start of SL. If Bradford Bulls had not got into financial trouble they would still be there. SL needs a certain amount of equality with the NRL if it is to prosper. Only people who think that the AFL model of being the only ones in the world who play the game is the way to go would disagree with this. And they do exist just as much as those who are happy to see London fail and RL to retreat into the north of England.

  2. I’m not sure signing SBW would give Salford the crowd boost that you seem to think. In an area where there was a huge interest in rugby league that was largely dormant, for whatever reason, then he might be the sort of player who could bring big crowds back.
    With Salford I’m not sure the potential for huge crowds is there. SBW might be a draw for RL fans in the area but how many actually are there? People tend to start lumping Manchester in with Salford and saying it’s a huge catchment area but few people in Manchester care one iota about rugby league or Salford. They aren’t going to turn up to a game of RL simply to see SBW.

    He is one of the few players in the game who could help bring in more sponsorship though, and in general the idea of allowing one marquee player to be discounted from the cap might work – although in reality I think Salford will be the only club capable of attracting a genuine big name player.

  3. The message from EagleEyePie is an interesting one! On the one hand the Red Devils are the only club capable of pulling this kind of signing off and on the other no one’s interested. There are several layers to this:first and foremost being a Warriors fan the idea of another club doing what Wigan do must be a little hard to take. Secondly, the lack of interest is almost certainly due to years of little achievement and failure. When hardly anyone in RL had crowds of any note a successful Salford had crowds of over ten thousand regularly. Success is one facet and of course the other is press coverage and profile both of which Marwan Koukash has produced in abundance since taking over. Even the idea of having a try at signing SBW creates interest as Dr MK knows only too well.
    Just one piece of evidence alone proves this the number of journos who want to come to the match has jumped from barely 15 to somewhere around 70. One thing that has been evident in the history of RL in the UK is that Wigan have largely acted in Wigan’s best interest but the Good Doctor does so much more than that!

  4. Message to League Freak : only a slight correction to the piece the Good Doctor
    reverted to the original nick name of the Red Devils because he’s very astute at making sure that the ones he needs to take with him are along for the ride. You probably know this LF but it may be as well to let those who don’t know, that Salford are the original Red Devils and a certain football club stole the name!
    Yet another example of League being first and some other sport stealing their thunder and taking the credit. The number of times this has happened might make a good piece for League Freak to research and write.

  5. For the record, the City of Salford has a population of around 230,000 people.

    There is more than enough people in the city alone without neighbouring Manchester or Trafford.

    The difficulty is getting people back, and getting new fans through the gates.

    This can easily be achieved by winning. Everyone loves a winner, right? If Salford start winning and become a really strong team, those fans would turn up to watch.

    Season ticket sales are already way above those for last season. If Salford have a good year on the field then attendances will get bigger.

    Couple this with the fact that a well known football team on Salford’s doorstep is in decline and it isn’t hard to imagine that success at Salford will bring in the fans. Because fans love a winner!

    Oh, and to echo what Oxford said above. Salford did actually just reclaim the name “Red Devils”. Man Utd were known as the rags until they decided they needed to sound more menacing and copied Salford’s moniker. It’s about time our club stood up and took back what was rightfully ours! Well done Dr K.

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