Breaking salary cap was a 'running joke,' says Sale Sharks owner

‘Breaking salary cap was a running joke’: Sale owner Simon Orange discusses Saracens debacle and the Sharks’ vision going forward after signing England star Manu Tuilagi

  • Sale Sharks are building a rugby side that is capable of winning the Premiership 
  • Owner Simon Orange outlines his vision for the club during these testing times
  • Sale brought in England international Manu Tuilagi to its star-studded squad
  • Orange also discusses the club’s reaction to the Saracens salary cap scandal 

Simon Orange’s tongue is only slightly in its cheek as he outlines Sale’s three-point plan: ‘Sign Manu, win the league, fill the stadium’.

The club’s owner makes it sounds simple, but he is under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead for the struggling sport.

Wages, welfare and revenue lie at the heart of the formula, with Orange keen for rugby to reinvent itself with Saturday night fixtures and more innovation. 

Sale Sharks showed their intent by signing up England international Manu Tuilagi 

Sale owner Simon Orange outlined the club’s plan in tackling the issues facing rugby

‘Rugby’s finances aren’t in a great place, are they?’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘Each owner is having to put two, three, four million pounds a year into the clubs. I just don’t think that’s sustainable and I don’t think it can last.

‘We can’t keep relying on wealthy people to support the sport because that’s a bit of a precarious business plan, isn’t it? People might not want to keep ploughing millions of pounds into their club, no matter how much they love it.

‘It’s absolutely possible — if not probable — that clubs will fail eventually, because the owners can’t just keep on funding them. We’re doing it for a short time at Sale, but we’re speculating to accumulate. 

‘The sooner things are sustainable, the better. That means doing two things: bringing the costs under control and increasing the income. 

‘CVC are experts at increasing income, so hopefully we can do that whilst keeping control of the coffers.’ 

Since the coronavirus lockdown, Sale Sharks have been worrying about their finances

Control the coffers? Does that not fly in the face of a club who have just added Manu Tuilagi to a starstudded cast including Faf de Klerk, Lood de Jager and Tom Curry?

‘Let’s just say we’re nowhere near what Leicester were paying for Manu!’ said Orange.

‘It was one of the quickest deals we’ve done and hopefully one of the best deals we’ve done. We called him up on the Friday — and he was with us by the Monday.

‘Like every deal for a big-name player, signing Manu was a commercial decision tied in with a playing decision.

Orange says the signing of Tuilagi can have both professional and commercial benefits

‘Everybody knows he’s top quality. When crowds are allowed back, people will want to come to see him, won’t they? And hopefully they’ll be coming to see a Sale side who are competing at the top and trying to win it.

‘There’s no reason we shouldn’t be competing straight away. That’s the grand master plan: sign Manu, win the league, buy a new stadium and get people interested. Simple!’

Sale were second in the table before the Premiership ground to a halt because of coronavirus. Like every other club, they have spent the lockdown months agonising over their accounts. 

Sale are building a quality rugby side which includes Faf de Klerk (left) and Tom Curry (right)

Millions of pounds have been wiped off the balance sheets, but that has not stopped the Manchester club from taking giant leaps into the future.

They were the first club to tie down every player on cut-price long-term deals, while advancing proposals for a new 12,000 capacity stadium at Crossford Bridge.

Orange infamously claimed last year it was easy to cheat the salary cap. He stands by his claims, but insists the landscape has changed in light of the Lord Myners report.

‘If your goal was to cheat the salary cap, it was easy,’ he said.

The salary cap scandal surrounding Saracens was a ‘running joke’, says Orange

‘Myners has done his report — which has full support — so now it’s much harder to break the cap. Plus, the consequences are more severe.

‘I’m hopeful we’re in a position where clubs just aren’t going to want to do it now. Saracens got relegated and the consequences are even more dire now.

‘It was a running joke. The credibility of the league was questionable when you had one team winning the league every year with three times the number of internationals that anyone else could afford.

‘We needed to sort ourselves out. It was a hard step but it’s been a step well worth taking.’

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