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Money matters for Wasps

Haskell, Flutey and Palmer are all leaving Wasps
James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer will all leave Wasps for French clubs

By Simon Austin

Lawrence Dallaglio is used to winning his battles after a career spent accumulating medals for Wasps and England.

But the 36-year-old has been cast in the role of helpless bystander in his new role at the club.

Now a member of the board at Adams Park, Dallaglio is responsible for negotiating player contracts, which is turning into a thankless task.

This week Riki Flutey, James Haskell and Tom Palmer all rejected new deals in favour of lucrative moves to France, and the fear is that more could follow.

You have to feel sorry for Dallaglio, because a number of factors mean a club like Wasps is unable to compete with the financial might of France's Top 14.


The plunging value of the pound against the euro has meant a 40% differential in salary values, while the absence of a salary cap in France is bound to attract top players from an English league with a 4m per season limit on wages.

Many of the French sides are owned by immensely wealthy benefactors with Brive owner Daniel Derichebourg, for example, believed to be worth 500m.

And every team in the French league except Toulouse has a stadium owned and subsidised by the local municipality.

Yet one significant factor hampering Dallaglio has been imposed by the English clubs themselves.

Wasps estimate they have lost out on 750,000 in revenue because of the Premiership's so-called "revenue-smoothing procedure".

Under an agreement between the Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby, which came into force on 1 July last year, clubs were supposed to receive 146,500 for each of their players selected in England's elite squad.

Wasps provided eight, yet claim to have received less than half of the amount intended by the RFU. This is because Premier Rugby is pooling a chunk of the money and sharing it between the 12 clubs.

It means that clubs like Bristol and Worcester, who have not contributed any players to the elite squad, are also receiving a share.

A spokesman for Premier Rugby told BBC Sport that the clubs, including Wasps, had voted unanimously for "revenue smoothing" last summer, "so that the league is not skewed in favour of a few clubs".

If this did not happen, some clubs would be able to dominate the league and make it a predictable competition, he said. The salary cap was introduced for the same reason.

Three clubs have complained to me (about this) already

Francis Baron
RFU chief executive

And the spokesman insisted it was not the England money that was pooled and that each club was paid this cash directly by the RFU.

Strictly speaking, this is true. But BBC Sport understands Premier Rugby makes adjustments when it shares out the pool of money between the clubs from the league's sponsorship and television revenue. This was confirmed by a club owner speaking on condition of anonymity.

Wasps seem to have suffered disproportionately for producing several outstanding homegrown players. Owner Steve Hayes took over the club in December, after the vote for the "smoothing" agreement took place, and is understandably unhappy.

So too is the RFU, which believes its incentive for clubs to produce English players has been undermined.

Last month RFU chief executive Francis Baron raged: "This is inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement, which was designed to encourage clubs to produce English players.

"It's an issue that needs to be resolved. Three clubs have complained to me."

The fact that the "smoothing" arrangement has been a factor in Wasps being unable to hang on to Flutey, Haskell and Palmer will only have fuelled Baron's anger.

The trio will no longer be part of the agreement under which the Premier League clubs guarantee England extra preparation time and player release for matches outside the normal Test windows, although Haskell and Flutey insist they will be able to attend the same number of England training sessions as before.

The RFU is now worried that their arrangement from next season to pay around 20,000 per English-qualified player if clubs hit a mark of 14 in their match-day squad of 22 will be subject to the same "smoothing".

Wasps are even understood to be considering legal action against the smoothing arrangement, while Sale are angry that they gave Andrew Sheridan a lucrative new contract in the belief they would receive the full 146,500 from the RFU for his services.

The next meeting of the club chairmen and chief executives, on 3 March, is sure to be a lively affair.

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see also
Money matters for Wasps
18 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Trio quit Wasps to play in France
17 Feb 09 |  London Wasps
Jeremy Guscott column
17 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Dallaglio urges Cipriani to stay
04 Dec 08 |  London Wasps
Dallaglio calls for Wasps loyalty
16 Jan 09 |  London Wasps
Wycombe chief takes over at Wasps
03 Dec 08 |  London Wasps
Premiership to freeze salary cap
14 Jan 09 |  English
Premiership ponders wage cap cut
17 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union
Saints expect end of salary cap
16 Sep 08 |  Northampton
Salary cap leaves Cohen in limbo
01 Nov 07 |  Northampton

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