Rugby Union: Big-spending Quins call for salary cap

Two of English rugby's most extravagant spenders yesterday painted a bleak picture of the game's financial future.

As Harlequins and Saracens count the cost of professionalism, Chris Hewett examines the fall-out from two years of madhouse economics.

Earlier this week, Harlequins ended months of patient negotiation by confirming Zinzan Brooke, the great All Black No 8, as their big-name signing for next season. They intend to pay him a reported pounds 350,000 over the next two years, so it was just a little rich to hear Guy Williams, the Londoners' financial director, call yesterday for the introduction of a salary cap.

Even more astonishingly, Williams singled out his own club's spiralling expenditure on foreign talent as symptomatic of the wider financial difficulties hovering over England's leading professional clubs. "Players know their power in demanding higher salaries and it is out of control," he said. "It is detrimental to English rugby and there has to be a reappraisal in order to put in place a salary structure to cover all four home unions. Otherwise we will reach a situation where clubs in the First and Second Divisions will suffer greatly."

Williams' fears were echoed by Nigel Wray of Saracens, although the owner of the Watford-based club approached the issue from a different angle by blaming his balance-sheet problems on the number of matches sardined into a chaotic fixture list.

"I have lost millions through my involvement," he said. "The top clubs are being forced to shut down on nine lucrative weekends to accommodate four pre-Christmas internationals and the Five Nations' Championship, which is crazy. A professional sport cannot limp along like this; the major investors will not pump in money season after season if club games are going to be disrupted."

Both clubs are not alone in their discomfort. One recent estimate put the combined operating losses of England's top-flight clubs at pounds 15m and although all but a couple have managed to attract substantial sugar-daddy investment, there are disturbing signs that the novelty is beginning to wear off.

Harlequins have lost their original "fat cat", John Beckwith, after only a single season's involvement. Beckwith, who pumped pounds 3m into the Stoop last year, has sold his share of the club to Duncan Saville, an Australian businessman, although he retains a 10 per cent interest. Saville, who has invested an extra pounds 1m, now owns 39 per cent of Quins, with the outstanding 51 per cent in the hands of the trustees.

The new deal will ease the worries of a club which shelled out pounds 1.5m in wages and lost a seven-figure sum last season, but Williams, a chartered accountant, believes there is urgent need for action on a united front. "The potential from rugby is huge, but not instantaneous," he said. "The overheads are instantaneous, however. If, for example, Newcastle make a big purchase, this has a rippling effect down to other clubs."

Newcastle, who sent the money-go-round spinning off the face of the earth by signing another New Zealander, Va'aiga Tuigamala, on a Brooke-sized contract midway through last season, are unlikely to be impressed by Williams' plea for a salary cap. Sir John Hall, the Geordies' fiercely independent owner, is convinced that hard cash will bring tangible rewards.

But he may well support Wray's push for a revamped fixture list loaded in favour of the professional clubs. Wray wants to limit England's pre- Christmas activity to two internationals and backs a shorter, sharper Five Nations format.

"The fixture schedule does not give us a level playing field and without a club system, there is no basis for investment," he said. "But I believe we could be in a healthy position in five years if we get the right leadership."

News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
scienceHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Voices
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PHP / MySQL Developer (PHP, MySQL, AJAX, JQuery, MVC, HTML, XML

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: PHP / MySQL Developer (PHP, MySQL...

C# Back-End Developer (C#, .NET, ASP.NET, SQL, MVC-4, TDD, BDD)

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# Back-End Developer (C#, .NET, ...

Web Developer (C#, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, JQuery, XML) London

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Web Developer (C#, HTML5, CSS3, J...

C# Software Developer (C#, front-end, Java, JavaScript, VB)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# Software Developer (C#, front-...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried