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French Rugby Column December 21 || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 2 min read

So it seems that there has been much whooping and hollering and
jumping for joy back in the UK since the news was announced last
week that the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) has opted to impose a
salary cap on French clubs from next season. From an English
perspective it’s felt that the cap of €8 million will effectively put a stop
to the exodus of top quality England players looking to increase their
earning power. The French, meanwhile, are pleased, because they see
this cap, together with an introduction of a homebased quota system,
as positive action in trying to put a halt to what they perceive as a
barrier to the future development of homegrown players as the Top 14
fills up with foreign stars.


It all sounds great on the surface. But as with all such rulings, I have
my suspicions that this will not be the end of either issue. First and
foremost, the €8 million cap still gives the French outfits a lot more
room to manoeuvre than the English clubs, who are supposed to work
within a £4.4 million cap. The current strength of the euro only makes
it more appealing to be paid in that currency, too. So whether this will
mean the end of English players looking for a move to France is
debateable, especially when you add into the equation the fact that a
lot of players base their decision to move to France on lifestyle issues
almost as much as financial criteria.


And then there are the unseen, unwritten and unspoken elements of
top class rugby deal-making. Whether people like to admit it or not
there have always been and always will be financial inducements made
to players that will never, ever come anywhere near an accounting
balance sheet. The many and multifarious means with which clubs
sweeten up packages for players will always exist well away from the
limelight, but don’t doubt for a moment that they exist. Rules and
regulations may be in place and they certainly do curb the wildest of
illegal practice, but if people believe that this cap will fundamentally
alter the balance of power as it currently exists then I believe they’re
being extremely naïve.


As for the benefits that the new limits will bring to home-grown talent,
well that’s a debate that has been running in England for what seems
like forever. I personally happen to be of the opinion that the best way
to develop young talent is to create the hardest, toughest, premier
league environment possible and then help to nurture the youngsters
in a competitive manner by loaning them out to lower league clubs.

Artificially suppressing the best talents from appearing in your league
seems to me not only to short-change the paying public, but also
deprives youngsters of the chance of learning from the very best,
players who will have grown up in different rugby environments, with
different ways of doing things and whose wider experiences can only
help to broaden everyone’s rugby education.


The headlines have all been about how the new French salary cap will
change the face of the game on both sides of the Channel. But I think
we’d be far better advised to hold on to our horses and wait and see
how things pan out before we go around making such outlandish
statements.