Follow the Money, Jimmy

As a brief follow-up to our Ulster piece earlier in the week, we thought we would add one point, and address one raised several times in follow-ups.

Addition: the Bob Paisley Rule

We here at Whiff of Cordite are followers of the Bob Paisley Rule – that is, change from a position of strength. Make your adjustments on your own terms and don’t let events overtake you (like when Bob Paisley jettisoned European Footballer of the Year Keggy Keegle for young Kenny Dalglish and improved his already all-conquering Liverpool side).
Humph has ticked this box at Ulster by recognising a potential weakness and addressing it pre-emptively. This stands in contrast to, say, Ludd at Munster. We’ll be posting on Ludd’s rather mixed legacy shortly, but he put off changing a successful Munster side until he was forced to i.e. after Toulon tore them a new one. His work since has been better, but he has never given the impression of having caught up with himself or being in control of the transition.

Follow-up: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

More than once after the Ulster piece, people brought up money – how were Ulster able to develop so quickly, and sign such superstars? The Rory McIlroy blank cheque rumour came up, as did talk of some “private funding” – both nonsense. When considering Ulster budget, there are some important points to note:
  • Time lag. Contracts, by their very nature, are backward looking. Thats why Conor Murray, until very recently, was on an Academy contract, and the man he was keeping on the bench, Tomas O’Leary, was on a central one worth multiples of Murray’s. Murray’s contract was based on potential, O’Leary’s on a Lions selection in 2009. Ulster’s team, if you exclude centrally contracted and overseas players, are, for the most part, young and have no great record of success. Thus, they are cheaper. For example, Dan Tuohy is probably on a fraction of Donncha’s wage, yet has been much more effective this season.
  • Central Contracts. This is a particularly muddy issue that is deliberately shrouded in mystery.  The IRFU acts as paymaster for a number of Irish international players, but the hows and why’s of who has one and who doesn’t are puzzling in the extreme.  Brian O’Driscoll has one, of course, and so does Paul O’Connell.  No surprise there.  But so does Paddy Wallace.  Denis Leamy, Munster’s reserve flanker, recently signed a new one, in a piece of news which surprised everyone.  Sean O’Brien doesn’t have one.  Neither does Eoin Reddan.  The extent to which the IRFU directly pay the players from the various provinces is shrouded in mystery.
  • Hard currency. Leinster and Munster players get paid in Euros, but Ulster players get paid in sterling. The Belfast equivalent of a Dublin €100k salary is about £60k, that is €70k at current market rates. Ulster players generally cost less due to being in the sterling zone.
  • Imports. Now let’s address the overseas players issue. It’s fair to say Ulster’s cadre of foreigners are of a higher class than Leinster or Munster – Ulster have 3 genuine stars and a former Springbok captain. But do they cost much more and give Ulster an unfair advantage? Let’s have a look:
    • John Afoa: Afoa is a world class tight head prop. World class tight heads props are worth their (considerable) weight in gold, and are remunerated accordingly, with something akin to danger money added on. Afoa would be on a comparable wage to Mike Ross and BJ Botha
    • Johann Muller: Muller is a World Cup winning former Springbok captain. But he was never a starter in his Bok career or even a regular on the bench, and he is in his early 30s. As such, Muller is not a top dollar player – its conceivable he is paid less than Nathan Hines was
    • Pedrie Wannenburg. Ulster’s back row bosher is a regular try scorer and his offloads in the HEC this year were both delicious and unexpected. But in reality, he is a bit of a journeyman, and the Boshiership is crammed with players like Wannenburg. Suffice to say, he’s not going to be shooting the lights out in the payslip department
    • Simon Danielli: Is rubbish
    • Ruan Pienaar & Jared Payne: Are top class. Here is where Ulster have an advantage. Leinster and Munster each have one genuine superstar – Nacewa and Howlett. Ulster have 1.5 – Pienaar is one of the best players in the world, but Payne is not there yet. Payne wasn’t considered to be on the All Black radar despite his exploits with Auckland. Still, he has the potential to be explosive and could yet work out to be Ulster’s Isa Nacewa

So, Ulster players are younger and are thus on less money, and get paid in sterling. On the flip side, they have Jared Payne against, say, Matt Berquist or Save Tokula.

We don’t think the overall wage bill is any higher than Leinster or Munster.

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1 Comment

  1. Afoa is on less than Botha.Wannenburg was mostly paid for by the money the Caaaadiff Blues had to shell out when Rush decided to stay in Wales.There's also the issue of squad size. There are simply less Ulster players. They have 32 full player contracts. Munster have, what, 48? Or maybe 44? What is an average journeyman provincial player paid? Multiply it by at least a dozen and that's a big inflation in Munster's wage bill.Also, last year Ulster signed the biggest ever sponsorship deal in Ireland with Kukri (although it may since have been eclipsed by Leinster). Whether or not they deserve it, it's what happened. Whilst Munster and Leinster arguably have much more local talent on the pitch, Ulster have reservoirs of off-field talent in dHumph and Logie that the other "big two" do not have. This is being seen in the signings and financial dealings that belie Ulsters' lack of silverwear and often erratic results.

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