McGeechan demands action on player drain
February 18, 2009
McGeechan has had to bid farewell to three of his leading players © Getty Images
Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan has called for urgent action to be taken to halt the exodus of England's leading players to cash-rich French clubs.
The Premiership side confirmed yesterday that England international trio James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Riki Flutey will quit the club in the summer after agreeing lucrative trasnfers to France's Top 14. Flanker Haskell and lock Palmer will join Stade Francais in three-year deals while centre Flutey will link up with Brive in a two-year deal.
The triple swoop is the latest example of the financial dominance of France's top flight where clubs are not restricted by a salary cap. The current strenght of the euro against the pound has only served to underline their clout in the transfer market with English clubs unable to compete on level terms.
McGeechan believes the main problem for Premiership clubs is that they are not being directly compensated for producing England players. The Rugby Football Union's £4.6million payments are split among all the Premiership clubs - a process known as revenue smoothing - and Wasps believe that costs them £750,000 a year.
McGeechan also wants some flexibility built into the salary cap to help fund larger squads. Wasps will be without their England players for 12 Premiership games this season.
"As a business, we would like to get fair recompense for producing international players," said McGeechan. "I think you need that commitment both ways. Clubs should be producing players for England - and if you do that then you get a good structure under the international programme.
"The problem is, at the moment there is a lot of money elsewhere - and you can't do anything about it. The French clubs have a lot of money, and we simply can't compete - salary cap or no salary cap. It is pretty mind-boggling, some of the numbers."
Haskell, 23, defended his decision to leave Wasps - where he came through the academy - insisting he will enhance his England credentials. Haskell insists money is bottom of his list, although he accepts not everyone would believe him.
"Some people will criticise me for going to France, because they will say I am following the money. To be honest, that was the last of my considerations in going to France," he said. "A lot of the offers from British clubs and Wasps were very competitive, but it was a decision about playing rugby. The most important thing for me is playing for England."
Brive will have five English players next season in Flutey, Andy Goode, Ben Cohen Steve Thompson and Ben Johnston.
The whole situation has alarmed the Rugby Football Union, who will discuss the "long-term ramifications" both internally at their board meeting later this month and with clubs' body Premier Rugby.
Wasps executive chairman Mark Rigby said, "It does raise great concern that French clubs can now blow the English clubs away when it comes to salaries - and it is clear that in financial terms we are no longer on a level playing field."
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