Gulf below Super League increasing

The gulf between Super League and the rest could increase next season if plans to lower the Championship salary cap go ahead.

Some lower league clubs have complained that the cap is too high, with no fewer than four clubs entering administration in recent years. Doncaster are currently in administration for the second time in as many years, while Widnes, Rochdale and Swinton have also had financial problems in the past few years.

However, lowering the cap could have major re-percussions on those aiming for Super League 2012. The likes of Widnes and Halifax will see their playing budgets cut to a level which would see them need even more investment should they get the nod at the next round of licenses.

Thanks to the abolition of promotion/relegation, the gap is widening already, so to lower the salary cap is surely just another indication that the bottom two divisions are relatively unimportant. Surely the RFL should be looking to push the lower leagues and improve their standard, not lower it. The Rugby Football Union are making massive steps with their domestic game, and they are funding the development of their second tier in going full time.

Rumours suggest that the Championship 1 cap could be based on 40% of turnover, while the Championship salary cap may be reduced by up to 25%. While it may create a more level playing field (hang on, wasn’t the stupid bonus points system supposed to do that too?), it will undoubtedly effect ambitious clubs such as Widnes, who are currently the only side outside of Super League fielding four teams (first team, reserves, under 18s, foundation academy).

What impact does it have on deals that are agreed for 2010? Widnes already have James Webster under contract, and you would think that he takes up a relatively large chunk of the salary cap. Widnes will have budgeted to use the current level, thought to be around £400,000, but if this goes down, they will have a lot less space to negotiate deals for existing or new players.

Yet again, it seems those outside of Super League are being left in the lurch.

Here’s hoping that if one team does get the chance in 2012, they are given the time and support they need to get up to speed in the top flight. Otherwise, the lower leagues could be cut away from Super League forever – even more so than they are already.

It was great to see Catalans play out their match against Warrington in front of 18,000 in Barcelona. It is a far more significant achievement than many have suggested. I’ve read officials and journalists saying isn’t it great that SL games were played in Bridgend, London and Barcelona this weekend. Well, yes it was, but there was 3,015 at Celtic and 4,378 at Harlequins, hardly comparable to the Barcelona crowd. It appears those with an expansionist agenda are too ready to believe their own hype. Let’s credit the significant achievements, i.e. Barcelona, but instead of pretending others are a success, let’s try and give them more support in to making it.

Regarding Barcelona, wouldn’t it be a great idea if a different team could play Catalans there next year. Imagine Saints or Wigan travelling to the Spanish city for a game in June next year. It could catch on you know. Just please don’t suggest we move the Magic Weekend there.

What a great game Halifax v Widnes was on Sunday. Highly entertaining, and a prime example as to why promotion/relegation should be reinstated. The game was worthy of a Grand Final. Ben Black will no doubt be having nightmares about the game for years to come after an incredible knock on with the line at his mercy and no opponents in sight. Paul Cullen though was smiling like a Cheshire cat at the end of the game, and he has done some job in turning round Widnes’ season after months of turmoil at the club.

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