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A Fistful of Rugby Dollars Underline 20 April, 2011
Gabrieli Lovobalavu (holding ball) - a true professional with Toulon.
While Welsh international Gavin Henson’s finger is firmly on the self destruct button, his Toulon team mate and Fijian Gabrieli Lovobalavou is a prime example of a true professional in what could be described as Toulon Rugby’s make-believe world.

Money seems to be no object to the French club with 1.8 million Australian dollars being reportedly offered to lure back Sonny Williams while at the same time keeping Jonny Wilkinson on a reported salary of 800,000 euro’s a year.

But week in and week out its Lovobalavu, the sole survivor from Toulon’s initial promotion into the Top 14, that continues to gain the plaudits if not the million dollar salary. Lovobalavu was brought up in an undemanding environment in Fiji where the simple pleasures of rugby still count - to go out there and simply play.

This simple philosophy of merely wanting to play the game is what makes Fijians stand out in the financially stressed world of French rugby.

To many the way French rugby finances itself must be like visiting another planet, or playing in soccer’s English Premiership. However the salaries offered to seduce international stars to play in the Top 14 do not relate to the actual income being generated by those clubs.

In English rugby there has been in force, for several years, a strict salary cap which controls each club's wage bill, currently 4.2 million euro’s. If they wanted to spend more, they can't. The idea is to keep a level playing field, allowing a competitive league.

In France the equivalent system, is based on the average income of the clubs. Thus the high spenders inflate that figure. Toulouse, with an annual budget of well in excess of 20 million euro’s, has the structure to finance it.

They own their own ground of 17, 000 + capacity and look at mainly French players in their recruitment system - with the odd Byron Kelleher and Rupeni Caucau to add a little spice. Their historic support and sponsor set-up allows them to stay at the top. In England, Leicester represents the equivalent club.

It's the "new kids on the bloke" that are challenging the system, no more so than Toulon and Racing Metro. Both have only been recently promoted, but have spent not only to get there but stay there.

Their financial muscle comes from individuals with a dream and the cash to back it up. Welcome to Messrs Mourad Boudjellal of Toulon and Racing Metro’s Jacky Lorenzetti, and 'their fistful of dollars'. The former making his money from comics, the latter by selling houses. They have invested heavily, 10 million euro’s and counting, to reinvent their respective clubs former glories.

Too often promotion to the Top 14 only sees a rapid return to Pro D2 with too little time to put together a squad capable of competing at the next level up. Both Racing and Toulon have bucked the trend

There’s no doubt both clubs have added to the spectacle that is the Top 14, great to watch and write about - but is such investment sustainable and at what cost to the national set-up? This week's war of words between the NZRU and Irish Rugby highlights the problem.

The chase to lure players can lead to situations where club goes up against country or, perhaps even worse, club finances dry up and players are left high and dry as Nemani Nadolo found at Bourgoin.

For Fijian rugby players it is the chance to play with the best. That can only be a benefit. But it is necessary to keep one's feet on the ground, when the person you are passing to is on a pay-packet ten times yours. After all Rugby is a team game. It requires 15 committed players – like Lovobalavu.


Moce
Marc @ Rugbymarc

Other April 2011 News Underline
All Blacks v Flying Fijians Test confirmed 29 April, 2011 
Fiji U20 squad named 29 April, 2011 
Fijian players prominent as French season nears end 28 April, 2011 
Fraser Talk: Unshackled 28 April, 2011 
Fiji faces Samoa in Scotland 27 April, 2011 
Male appointed Fiji U20 Coach 27 April, 2011 
Fiji Rugby to host IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011 26 April, 2011 
Fiji Rugby thrilled to host PNC 26 April, 2011 
Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: The Development of Attacking Play 26 April, 2011 
Fraser Talk: Sunny Skies up North 22 April, 2011 
Fiji Rugby's Kaji Camp 21 April, 2011 
Fiji women prepare for Pacific Games 20 April, 2011 
A Fistful of Rugby Dollars 20 April, 2011 
Player banned for 6 months 20 April, 2011 
Historic Agreement Signed Between FORU and ONOC to Grow Rugby in Oceania 19 April, 2011 
Lee Smith's Coaching Corner: Emerging trends in 7s rugby 19 April, 2011 
Latest Vacancies at Fiji Rugby 18 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 7 Results 17 April, 2011 
2011 Digicel Cup Rd 7 Tables 17 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 7 Team Lists 15 April, 2011 
Board removes Tanivula as Digicel Fiji 7s coach 15 April, 2011 
Port Elizabeth Exciting New Host of South Africa Sevens 14 April, 2011 
Sri Lanka Restored to Full IRB Member Union Status 14 April, 2011 
Rugby World Cup 2011 to Showcase 3D Technology 14 April, 2011 
The Search for Silverware 14 April, 2011 
Fraser Talk: Collaboration 13 April, 2011 
Pools and Matches set for London Sevens 13 April, 2011 
Gold Coast to kick off new HSBC Sevens World Series 13 April, 2011 
Tikoisuva appointed Flying Fijians RWC manager 11 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 6 Tables 10 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 6 Results 10 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup - Nadroga thrash Suva 32-10 09 April, 2011 
Fraser Talk: Burn the Ships 09 April, 2011 
A French countdown 07 April, 2011 
Savou gets Harrow Scholarship offer 07 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 6 Team Lists 07 April, 2011 
Major Independent Report Highlights Rugby Participation Growth in Emerging Markets 06 April, 2011 
Fraser Talk: Preparing to be the best 06 April, 2011 
FBCL extends partnership with Fiji Rugby 06 April, 2011 
New Zealand win Adelaide Sevens to stretch World Series lead 05 April, 2011 
RWC Preview - the Group of Death 03 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 5 Results 03 April, 2011 
2011 Digicel Cup Rd 5 Tables 03 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup - Rewa stun Nadroga 27-29 02 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup Rd 5 Team Lists 01 April, 2011 
CFL re-commits to Fiji Rugby 01 April, 2011 
Digicel Cup - Northland defeats Tailevu 27-18 01 April, 2011 
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