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OPINION: The United Rugby Championship should follow suit with the Gallagher Premiership and the Top14 in introducing a salary cap

What makes sport interesting? Close games, not knowing who’s going to win, the list goes on. Now this is both visible in the Gallagher Premiership and The Top 14. Every week you don’t know who could take home four or five points. 

There is a drastic difference over the border from England, in Wales, Scotland and Ireland competing in the United Rugby Championship, (URC). Irish provinces Leinster boast a squad of quality players and you can almost guarantee a top four finish for the league’s champions for the past four seasons. But you can also be sure Dragons Rugby, Zebre Parma or Benetton will be rooted to the foot of the table. 

A salary cap regulation would transform the entire competition to rival that of the Gallagher Premiership and the Top14. The URC sides have been less competitive when facing these teams in Europe, by making the domestic league a level playing field would not only better the level of playing within the league but also across the board in other competitions and even benefit the national teams.

Dragons Rugby Chairman, David Buttress told Wales Online, “If you want to create a league that’s exciting every week, you can’t have one side that’s triple or double the wage bill because then you all know what the outcome is going to be.”

The rare occasion when Rocky beats Apollo Creed gives a rare glimpse into what could be if there was a level playing field. But there are no assurances whether a salary cap would increase competition. 

It is inevitable that the URC will see financial regulations imposed in the near future and even the competition’s Chief Executive has admitted this. But introducing a salary cap would prove a mammoth task, with territories, various currencies, and ownership models involved in the league. 

However, you have to question whether financial regulations would be a quick fix with no guarantees of improved competition between teams in the league.  

Speaking exclusively to ParkLife Sport, Ioan Dyer doesn’t see the benefit of a salary cap.

“On paper, both (Dragons and Zebre) have teams that should be more competitive than they are,  particularly the Dragons. Despite their playing budget being apparently the lowest of the Welsh regions, the fact they’re owned by the Welsh Rugby Union that finance running costs, their actual budget is probably on par with Scarlets. They didn’t make an impact on the league even when budgets were all equal.

Leinster have been reigning champions for four years and the Dragons, Zebre and Benetton have been battling at the bottom. It begs the question: why hasn’t a salary regulation already been introduced?

Dyer said, “In the main, the governance of the league is in Ireland and generally, decisions tend to favour the Irish teams in the league. Out of all the teams, should a salary cap be introduced, the two teams impacted the most would be Leinster and Munster.”

Now more than ever, Welsh rugby fans are heading across the bridge to get their rugby fix. The Gallagher Premiership has been much more competitive and there are no easy contests. Only last season Bristol Bears topped the table before the play-offs, and now in the current campaign have been banished to the bottom. 

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