Saturday, December 09, 2006

How do you like your eggs?

If you're the Bradford Bulls, the answer to that question is not poached - no siree Bob it most definitely is not...

They've been found to have "no case to answer" by the Rugby Football League in respect of an illegal approach to Wakefield's David Solomona, who they signed recently in a player plus cash deal. Solomona was still contracted to Wakefield at the time, but the contract would have become void had the Wildcats been relegated from Super League. According to Wakefield boss Steve Ferres, around eight other SL clubs had made approaches to Solomona while he was still a contracted Wakefield player, which is illegal under RFL bye-laws. All this speculation and the knowledge that bigger clubs were interested in him unsettled Solomona, and led to him submitting a transfer request to Wakefield which led eventually to his move to one of those clubs.

Of course, the problem then becomes proving it.

Back in the "good old days" it was fairly easy to spot. The only way to approach a player would be either directly or through his club. If the player got a better offer from somewhere else and nobody had approached his club, then the club knew the player had been tapped up.

These days of course it's much more difficult. Agents act for the player, agents act for the clubs and on some occasions an agent may find himself acting for both at different times. You don't have to actually make an illegal approach directly to the player in order to establish what he may want to sign for you should he decide to leave the club he's currently contracted to. All you do is get someone acting on behalf of your club to make informal contact with someone acting on behalf of the player to discuss the metaphorical scenario that he might be interested in playing for you. Strictly speaking, no rules have effectively been broken but the effect has been the same once the agent reports back to the player what he may be able to earn elsewhere.

It's so difficult to stop that in my opinion the RFL should just ditch its anti-tampering rules. Clubs don't have to sell a player even if he is approached from elsewhere, and it's no good any club playing the victim when they've all at some point been guilty of the same crime. Allow clubs to approach players under contract at other clubs in the same way they would be allowed to "head hunt" employees were they businesses in any other industry than professional sport.

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