Super League clubs have voted in favour of a marquee player rule.
The rule, which will come into force from 2016, will allow clubs to sign one player that will take up a maximum £175,000 on the salary cap, regardless of how much they are paid.
The proposal won an eight to four majority at a vote taken on Wednesday at the league’s Annual General Meeting.
The current Super League salary cap for all clubs is £1.85million per year.
It was the third time a vote had been taken on the rule, with it being rejected the previous twice.
It is hoped Super League clubs will now be able to prevent their best players from leaving to play in the NRL or leaving league to play union.
Super League chief executive, Nigel Wood, told Sky Sports; “I would like to congratulate the clubs on both their foresight in approving the marquee player proposal and for the mature and responsible way in which they have reached their decision.
“The clubs recognise that the salary cap continues to have an important regulatory function and the marquee player allowance provides a level of flexibility that will benefit both Super League and the wider sport.
“The ability to recruit one marquee player each will enable the clubs to enhance the talent pool within a competition which has a proud record of developing outstanding world class talent.”
Any marquee player will add £100,000 onto a club’s salary cap if they are club trained or £175,000 if they are non-club trained.
However, any club wishing to sign a marquee player will first have to comply with RFL financial regulations concerning their income and outgoings.
Salford Red Devils owner Dr Marwan Koukash has been a vocal advocate of the marquee player rule. After the proposal gained a majority vote he tweeted; “Fantastic day for Super League. The marquee player rule got voted through.”
Meanwhile, Castleford Tigers chief executive Steve Gill has voiced his opposition to the new rule; “We felt the extra income we had received through the Sky monies had given us a sustainable business plan that would help us compete at the highest level and on a level playing field.
“I fully understand the need to retain our home talent, however I do feel as though we will end up with once again the top five clubs winning everything and the others just making up the numbers.
“We don’t believe this is good for the game long term, therefore we felt we could not support the marquee proposal yesterday.”
Huddersfield Giants managing director Richard Thewlis is also against the new rule; “This decision creates an uneven playing field as only two or three of the richest clubs will be able to afford to take advantage of it just at a time when spectators are enjoying greater uncertainty of outcome which is delivering closer games and greater excitement along with the tightest league table ever.
“The player rule will give an unfair advantage to the richer clubs which the salary cap was designed to prevent. In my view it does nothing for the development of English players and is against the long-term interests of the game.”
Wakefield Wildcats and Hull FC were both also thought to be against the new law.
Meanwhile Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith welcomed the decision, saying; “It’s progress in some respects. I just think we’ve stagnated as a sport to keep our salary cap around the region it has been.
“We haven’t progressed much and at some stage it’s got to happen. I think salary-capping has served some purposes in protecting ourselves from ourselves and keeping the competition close but a lot of our players are getting picked off by other sports.”
Shaun Wane, Wigan Warriors head coach also sees the move as being positive; “I think it’s great news,” he said. “I know quite a few of the chairmen have been pushing for it. If it lifts the profile of the game, then I’m all in favour of it.
“Obviously if we can bring some great players to the club – like we already have got some great players – and we get a better team, then I’m all in favour of it.”