Wasps and the Bradford Bulls show the salary cap is not working in either Rugby code

Wasps Lineout

Both the Rugby League and the Rugby Union in England both have a salary cap in place, which in theory is to stop their clubs spending money which they do not have.

How then, do we find ourselves in the position where two of the most successful clubs of the modern era, the Bradford Bulls and the London Wasps both find themselves on the brink of administration?

The Bulls have had to go cap in hand to their supporters who have raised an incredible amount of over £500k to stave off the immediate threat posed by the tax man. They now have to find the same amount all over again before the end of April in order to meet other liabilities.

Wasps hierarchy believe the club will enter administration at the end of the season, next month, if fresh investment can not be found.

Potential investorsare being lined up, but with the collapse of talks with their first choice investor, and the resent arrest of their current owner Steve Hayes, if a buyer is to be found, the club are leaving it late.

The Bulls were last Super League Champions in 2005, and the world club champions in 2006 and crowds of 20,000 were regularly seen at Odsal during the height of “Bullmania”.

Over the last five years, the team on the pitch has been in decline, and big money signings such as Iestyn Harris and Matt Orford have not brought on field success and have overstretched the Bulls finances to the point that we see today.

Wasps were last Heineken Cup winners in 2007 and Premiership champions in 2008 so their fall from financial grace has been even swifter than that of the Bulls.

The departure of household names such as Laurence Dallaglio, Matt Dawson and Phil Vickery from the victorious England world cup winning side reduced the appeal of the club, and the replacements that came in after that last premiership success were not of the same ilk.

Wasps today are still not mathematically safe from relegation, and would find it hard to come back if such a blow occurred.

Both Wasps and the Bulls are looking at a different playing pool than they once were, having to make do with journeymen and other clubs cast offs, looking to turn rough diamonds into magnificent jewels.

Youth development will play a large part in the make up of both sides, but, as with any financial vulnerable institution, the vultures are circling to see which players could be added to their squads at a knock down price.

English Rugby Union clubs also have to cope with the loss of players to the much wealthier French Super 14, where a salary cap of double that of the Premiership persuades players that their futures are best served across the channel.

Obviously, both codes of Rugby are not alone with the financial hardships which are affecting sporting organisations across the country.

The plights of football clubs Rangers, Portsmouth and Port Vale highlights that teams which are run as bad businesses will always fall under financial hardship, just as any other badly run business would.

What is most worrying for the rugby clubs is that there is a framework of strict financial limitations and a limit on what can be spent on players.

Organisations that still have the ability to flirt with financial disaster while playing to a set of pre determined rules have to look in the mirror and decide whether the set up that they have implemented, and the decisions which they have taken have been in the best interest of each club. They would have to answer in the negative.

Big name clubs in all sports have now come to a cross roads. There are a handful of sides in each sporting spectrum across the country that are successful businesses in their own right, and make a profit.

Most are propped up by a sugar daddy, a life long supporter or a business man who want the kudos of owning such an  organisation.

Clubs as a whole are now the play things of the ultra wealthy, and those who try to keep up but fail, end up ruining the club for the stakeholders who will be the only ones there to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong- the fans.

image: © zoonabar