Aviva Premiership Transfer Market ‘Open For Business’

Gloucester Rugby v Benetton Treviso - European Rugby Challenge Cup
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Jonny Mayof Gloucester Rugby dives in to score their second try during the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between Gloucester Rugby and Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

As Gloucester fans reel from the loss of their star player Jonny May, all clubs will feel the after-effects of the deal that has taken him to Leicester Tigers. The BBC has reported that all 12 clubs have now voted to allow clubs to negotiate transfer fees for players in contract. The Aviva Premiership Transfer Market is well and truly open.

Transfer Fees: An Overreaction to a Minor Problem?

Before this decision, a player could be brought out for the cost of a year’s salary from their current or potential club – whichever were higher. From now, this fee can be negotiated and importantly, it sits outside the salary cap.

There has been an increase of players switching clubs while in contract this summer. Louis Picamoles and George Ford are two high profile examples. The problem, for the clubs at least, these deals were driven by the players’ desire to leave. In Gloucester’s case, once May decided he wanted to leave, all they could do was cash-in Leicester’s wage offer. Adding Ed Slater to the deal was a bonus, to help soften the blow.

All Power with the Clubs   

The primary justification for this move is to prevent richer clubs being able to snap up lower paid players at smaller clubs. But while fees were linked to salaries and therefore the cap, there remained a relatively level playing field.

Therefore the logic that the less financially able clubs will be able to negotiate and potentially keep players in an open transfer market, seems flawed. This may allow smaller clubs to extract a larger fee for key players but – in all reality – they will still be lost, and potentially more regularly. The more considered opinion will be that this decision essentially allows richer clubs to assemble transfer pots and buy players out at will.

Premiership Mirrors Premier League Contracts

All of this is against the backdrop of hyper-inflated transfer fees in football. Most people involved in Rugby are keen to avoid this. However, it is hard to see how this recent decision hasn’t potentially opened the door to this.

The norm until now was that players moved clubs once their contracts expired. Player agents use of the Aviva Premiership transfer market was limited. With an explicit mechanism for breaking contracts now introduced, it is surely more likely to happen.

Perhaps in the future Jonny May will be remembered as Rugby’s Jean-Marc Bosman or Maros Kolpak?


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