Written by John Davidson
Big-names, star players and more of them. That’s the plan of Super League chief Robert Elstone, who wants to change the marquee player rule to bring more superstars into the competition from rugby union and the NRL.
Following the signing of England star Gareth Widdop by Warrington, Super League CEO Robert Elstone wants to make it possible for clubs to have more than two marquee stars paid outside of the salary cap in a bid to generate more publicity.
The marquee law was brought into Super League in 2016 to try and stem the flow of players electing to join Premiership Rugby or head down under. Under the current rules teams can have up two marquee players, with all but £150,000 of their their wage paid outside of the cap.
Last month Wigan and England forward John Bateman joined his Test teammates Sam Burgess and James Graham in the NRL. But Elstone, who was appointed in June, wants that player exodus to end and to attract more big-names to Super League.
“The players that have come in for 2019, clubs can see the impact of that,” he said.
“To extend that is something that is on the agenda. Whether it will be ratified by all 12 clubs, and some of the clubs might have different views, but it is on the agenda and it is something that the clubs are aware of.
“It will have a material, positive impact. It may well affect the balance of the competition, which is something we have to work against.
“But overall if we are on this relatively short journey to make impact with our next broadcast partner, our next partners, to fill stadiums, for me it’s definitely something we should look at.”
Already for 2019 a clutch of high-profile transfers have made in Leeds trio Trent Merrin, Konrad Hurrell and Tui Lolohead, Warrington duo Blake Austin and Jason Clark, and St Helens trio Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama and Joseph Paulo.
Super League’s salary cap is set at £2 million, compared with £5.3 million in the NRL and £7 million in Premiership Rugby plus two marquees.
The cap in Super League is set to increase to £2.1 million in 2020, but Elstone has no plans to ditch the salary cap before the current TV deal with Sky ends in 2021.
“It’s crystalised at a level that the clubs are happy with, not withstanding a debate around marquee,” he said.
“Clearly, the next broadcast deal will be a critical factor in setting what the cap might be. If it is anyway facilitating an exodus to the NRL or to rugby union, then that’s something the game needs to address.
“However, the short, medium and long-term financial stability of the game is absolutely critical. So it’s balance those two things.”