A Landmark Year For Both Pro Teams…

On Saturday Edinburgh defied odds and expectations by herding Toulouse towards a loss. They defended well and they kicked with vision, relying on one try and the trusty boot of Greig Laidlaw.

It was a victory that drew hyperbole from many quarters of the English media. Beating Toulouse came as a shock and none of their sides have progressed past the quarter finals of any European competition. Mark McCall of Saracens drew some blank stares from those North of the border as he suggested the salary cap in England was one of the reasons his side slumped to defeat against a bullish Clermont Auverne side.

Officially, Saracens have a wage budget of £4.2m. By making these noises it is obvious that they have the ability to raise their cap and spend up to £4.5m, according to the Daily Mail, as well as allow the signing of one ‘marquee’ player per club.

Yesterday I was informed by one insider that both Glasgow and Edinburgh had imposed financial restraints from the Scottish Rugby Union, and while there was no exact matchup, both sides have a starting wage bill of roughly £3.5m.

They cannot really spend any more, like a Saracens, but of course, with salary caps, any inventive accounts team can get round it. It has happened for years and Edinburgh themselves tried it with Ross Ford. A major sponsor picks up that players wage bill, or they provide him with a ‘company car’, or he works part-time for them going in for a few days a year for good money. From personal experience I know that one could possibly play in the Heineken Cup without a full contract or any past affiliations with the club. Saracens just look bitter, here.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are spending as much as they possibly can and if there was another £1m they would use it. They do not complain, though. Edinburgh are delighted they have gotten this far. In truth they were not expected to get any further. After qualifying for the quarters there was chat that Michael Bradley was delighted with the amount of money they had just netted the Union. That money meant he had hit his targets for the year, too.

Targets are a big thing for coaches in the employ of the Union. Every season the heads sit down with the CEO and the board and they iron out what would be acceptable. If Edinburgh end rock bottom of the Pro12 it will not matter as they have already surpassed their target. If Glasgow lose the first game of a playoff it will not matter as they have met a target. Both will have netted the Union a significant amount of money.

People may not enjoy this situation where Edinburgh flagrantly ignore the RaboDirect in favour of the Heineken. People may also lament the fact that Glasgow only just missed out on the Heineken quarter finals. However, both parties have specialised and both are working within their meagre means.

One Edinburgh player jokingly said to me and his team-mate outside of Murrayfield one day that “Edinburgh are the new Munster, pal!” We laughed, but one cannot help but fear that is the mentality. It is great that both teams are doing well in a specific setting, but both must win silverware to be compared with history’s best.

This windfall from a good year means that more money can be spent next term. Edinburgh may now feel at ease to contact a few more agents right now and Glasgow may be able to sign one more support player to augment a squad they have already worked hard on for next term. What needs to be said, though, is that this is a building process.

If the current myth of the international team is bought into, where Scotland have taken a step backwards but are preparing for a future, then both pro sides must build for the future, too. Keep improving until both sides can make Heineken semis and Rabo playoffs. Then they will be compared to the Leinsters and the Munsters.

The first step to getting there? Glasgow need to keep competitors at bay and win their way into the RaboDirect Pro12 playoffs. In Edinburgh they can be happy, but they have a huge chance to make a final. Imagine the money the SRU could re-invest if that happened…?

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

One comment on “A Landmark Year For Both Pro Teams…

  1. Angus on

    Being in the Southern Hemisphere where there is only the one competition and each team focuses everything on it I find it strange that there are so many competitions in the North that coaches and clubs have to participate in

    It is very like the football and as a result if a side is to achieve success in multiple competitions in the one season they need a squad with the depth to do it.

    In other words with Internationals not only in the starting side each week but also on the bench

    Teams win games but squads win championships

    Having internationals or at least fringe internationals on the bench though, while great for a club, is not so realistic in the bigger picture

    Firstly to do so requires a larger budget that is feasible for long term financial survival

    If Mark McCall bemoans the number and quality of Internationals running on to the field against him and says he can’t afford a starting side of the same calibre due to the salary cap then how much more would be required to stack the bench?

    Then you have the issue of top quality players who would be a walk on start at any other club not getting sufficient game time each week because of rotations. That cannot be good from an International point of view either

    Edinburgh and Glasgow appear to have picked their targets for this year and good luck to them. I would rather see a Scotland side win or at least be in the final of a single competition than qualify for or just miss out on the 1/4 final of both

    With regards to targets for the year, every team, at every level does or should start with some for the year so that at the end they can look at each other and say – Yes this season has been a success or not

    In the case of club or school sides these targets may be to win promotion, avoid relegation, win more than 50% of home games or a any number of measures that relate to the club or team itself

    In a professional environment these still apply but there are added ones that encompass more than what happens on the pitch but are inexorably linked to performance.

    These would include merchandise sales, crowd numbers, sponsorship revenue etc

    At the end of the day while a coach doesn’t have direct input into these the performance of the team on the park directly impacts them

    All these targets, on or off the pitch, are rarely if ever, revealed outside the organisation and in turn this can lead to supporters and the very people the organisation needs to exist, being on the outer and potentially becoming disenfranchised by the actions of the organisation

    Two examples are:

    Ulster – So far reached the Semi Final of the Heineken after having 1/4 finals under their belts in the last few years and enjoying their best season in a while. Yet what happens to the coach who has led them to this success – Brian McLaughlin? It was announced just over a month ago that he is to be replaced at the end of the season and shifted sideways to the Academy

    With their season far from over and the potential of greater glory this year it has to leave Ulster fans and the public wondering exactly what is expected of their coach in order to keep his job

    Scotland – no need to rehash what has been discussed at length but sufficient to say what needs to happen for the coach to lose his job?

    At the end of every season a closed doors review takes place where the board or committee sit down with the coach and go over the season and how it panned out and compared to the expectations the same people agreed on before it started

    (In Brian McLaughlin’s situation it obviously took place well before the end of the season)

    The powers that be then decide if that coach is to be retained or replaced

    How much better it might be and clearer for fans and stake holders if at the beginning of a season these goals and benchmarks were shared with them so that at the end of the season it would be a no brainer for everyone to know if they had been met or not

    Then we would not be so bewildered at some of the decisions that are made

    Good luck to Glasgow and Edinburgh for the rest of the season and to their coaches who have already done them both proud.

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