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…?