End salary cap farce - and sort out promotion and relegation - says Hull KR’s Neil Hudgell

HULL KR owner Neil Hudgell has labelled the salary cap debate a “farce” and urged the Rugby Football League to “get off the fence” by making a decision on promotion and relegation.

Matt Parcell breaks free. Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR. BetFred Super League. Emerald Headingley Stadium. 14 February 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Given the financial chaos brought on by the coronavirus, potentially reducing the salary cap from £2.1m to £1.8m in 2021 has been a topic of discussion between the dozen clubs of late.

It is understood the six Yorkshire clubs would prefer to cut it back believing prudence is urgently required but also to help keep the integrity of the competition, ensuring there is no significant divide in wages being spent next year.

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The rest are against the idea, citing the need to retain and attract the best talent to the competition, with some clubs wanting to see the cap continuing to increase as it has done each year since being £1.825m in 2017.

There are no plans yet to call a vote on the matter but Hudgell – who has already expressed fears his club and others could go bust following the pandemic – told The Yorkshire Post: “The whole salary cap debate is a farce.

“It should be a governing body decision, not abrogated to the clubs, who will primarily vote on self-interest grounds.

“I don’t think anyone should apologise for that; we want what’s best for our clubs first and foremost. Why can’t people just be honest about it, and not see it as a dirty term.

“If I have to vote, it will be to reduce it and that’s for two reasons.

“One is overall affordability across the game – do we want a three-team competition? And, these are unique times. How can we ask players to take cuts (as clubs have) and then not do this?

“That said, I sympathise with clubs who want to spend more. Why shouldn’t they if all other things are equal?”

Warrington Wolves, of course, have flexed their muscles earlier this week by making the staggering signing of Australia superstar Greg Inglis for 2021.

Given their ability to spend big, they understandably want to be able to at least maintain the current cap, not see it drop. But Hudgell – a long-term supporter of the salary cap which was first introduced in 1998 – wants tighter controls.

Bet Fred Super League. Hull Kingston Rovers v Hull FC Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell. 30th March 2018. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

“I am starting to question why we have a cap; it isn’t adequately policed,” he conceded.

“We don’t even get audited every year. And then it’s light touch. It’s nothing like in the NRL.

“How daft is that? And why? Because that’s what we as a collective group have mandated to the governing body: keep it light touch.

“I’ll say no more though. I could write the self-serving validation coming back this way!”

On the subject of the RFL, Hudgell is adamant they must immediately sort out the opaque nature of promotion and relegation. That is another bone of contention with Super League clubs – out of action since mid-March and unlikely to start playing again until mid-August – arguing it would be unfair if the season’s fixture list is truncated in any way.

Hudgell, who has ploughed millions of pounds of his own money to plug the gaps during his long-reign at the Robins, said four weeks ago he would not invest any more money until he gained some clarity on whether demotion will remain.

There has still been no definitive answer yet from the RFL, though, and the Rovers chairman – who saw KR suffer relegation in 2016 – is keen for it to be swiftly resolved.

“They need to get off the fence and make a decision about promotion and relegation, and not sit on their hands and hope it goes away, which is the normal default position,” said Hudgell, whose club had just one win to their name when the campaign was halted on March 16.

“‘Baton down the hatches lads and let’s wait until it’s all blown over.’ Again self-interest is prevailing here.

“We don’t want promotion and relegation.

“Several prominent Championship clubs do, and they are threatening litigation.

“I don’t blame them. I’d consider the same in their position. It just needs sorting.”

In their defence, the RFL has managed to secure a £16m government loan to help navigate the sport through the ongoing crisis.

Indeed, there has even been talk from some Super League clubs that the two bodies should reunite again, less than two years after a high-profile split.

But Hudgell said: “I’m happy to set the record straight on my views on the return to one governing body.

“I most certainly didn’t say we should be subsumed under RFL control again. No, that’s a return to the bad old days. Super League needs it own executive under the umbrella of one regulatory body. And some central savings.

“That doesn’t mean the SLE executive has its head on the chopping block; far from it in my eyes.”

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