Squads at six of the Gallagher Premiership’s dozen clubs have agreed a 25 per cent wage cut following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the 2019/20 season to a standstill. 

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Premiership officials have confirmed a minimum five-week fixtures suspension and it has led to Bristol, Wasps, Gloucester, Worcester, Leicester and Saracens confirming they have taken drastic action to combat the sudden stop of matchday revenues flowing through the game. 

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Bath have also confirmed they will have further meetings next week with their players about mirroring the tough choices taken elsewhere in an effort to stop finances falling too much into the red in these unprecedented times for the sport around the world. 

Other than Exeter Chiefs, all of the participating Premiership clubs habitually report a financial loss at the end of a season. In the most recent set of accounts filed at Companies House in April 2019, nearly £50million was collectively lost between the 13 clubs, a figure that included London Irish who had been relegated to the Championship.

Exeter had increased turnover by more than £3m and recorded a profit of £533,000, but champions Saracens, in sharp contrast, had lost nearly £4m. With rugby now halted eleven months on from the publication of those worrying numbers, worried Premiership clubs have now asked their players to take a hefty pay cut.

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Here, RugbyPass summarises the various statements released by each of the clubs who have opted to cut their bills for the coming month at least:

BRISTOL BEARS

CEO Mark Tainton posted an open letter on the Bristol website confirming their intention to cut their cloth during the coronavirus layoff. “We are facing some extremely tough financial challenges during these unprecedented times,” he explained. 

“This fast-developing global situation affects all of us; our friends, family, jobs and financial security, Bristol Bears is no different. Without matchday revenue and central funding from Premiership Rugby, the club have had to take some very difficult decisions to ensure the future security of the Bears and the competition. 

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“Our industry has been impacted significantly by the economic downturn and we have been given no choice but to take action. Therefore, we regret to announce that from April 1, players and staff will receive a reduction in salary during this unprecedented period without competitive rugby.

“Pat Lam and I spoke to all the players and staff via video link on Friday to communicate this difficult message and answer any questions. The team recognise the pressures and concerns that our community is feeling.

“There are still uncertain times to come, but the most important thing is that we stick together as a collective and remain connected in our Bears culture that we have worked so tirelessly to build. Our commitment to training hard individually, preparing diligently and supporting community projects doesn’t change.”

WASPS

In an open letter to fans, CEO Stephen Vaughan explained the cutbacks that were happening at the club. “We are living through extraordinary times and none of us can predict the future or speculate when the current situation will end.

“With this in mind, we need to take some extremely difficult and significant action to reduce costs immediately so we can resume doing what we love when this is all over. The impact of these decisions is going to be felt across the whole business.

“Having discussed this situation at length with my colleagues from across the league, as well as Premiership Rugby, we are putting in place salary reductions of 25 per cent across the majority of the rugby department until we are playing Gallagher Premiership matches again. These measures will take effect from April 1. A number of lower-paid staff will be excluded from these salary reductions.

“I spoke with Lee Blackett and senior members of the playing squad Thursday night, and we then communicated this message to the wider team and colleagues. I could not be more proud of their response, understanding and determination to help the club in such testing times.

“These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary and robust measures. We do not know with any certainty how long these reductions will be in place, but we will review the situation on an ongoing basis and continue to keep the entire Wasps family up to date with developments.”

GLOUCESTER 

CEO Lance Bradley issued a letter outlining what measures have been taken at Kingsholm to tackle the crisis. “This is a fast-moving situation and we are all having to adjust our plans on a regular basis,” he wrote. “Like many businesses, this is difficult for Gloucester as income from matchdays, tickets, club memberships, conference and events and sponsors is critical for the club.

“In terms of staff, we are still working hard and doing our best to stay safe and healthy and follow all Government guidance. Our staff are in the position where the majority can work remotely, and we have taken the difficult decision to close Kingsholm Stadium and our conference and events facilities until April 20.

“We have also implemented a 25 per cent salary reduction across everyone at the club in order to see us through this incredibly challenging time… we will be back as a team with a vengeance as soon as we can!”

WORCESTER WARRIORS 

Warriors issued a general statement detailing their measures. “Like many other businesses in the country, Worcester are having to deal with circumstances that are unprecedented in peacetime,” read their statement. 

“Among the measures we have put in place is a temporary lockdown of Sixways during the five-week period that matches played under the auspices of Premiership Rugby are postponed. That clearly presents challenges for the running of the business, in particular cash-flow.

It is important that we make decisions now to ensure that, when we emerge from this dreadful crisis, we still have a sustainable rugby club… in the short-term, all our staff will take a 25 per cent pay cut effective from April 1.

“The 25 per cent reduction will not apply to staff below a certain salary threshold to ensure they are protected. We have offered as much support as we can to any member of staff who may suffer particular hardship as a consequence.

“We appreciate this is not an ideal situation for anyone but we hope that with the support of our loyal and dedicated staff in these difficult and challenging times that we can manage our way through this period.”

LEICESTER TIGERS

Chairman Peter Tom provided an update on how Tigers will cope with the suspension of the Premiership. “The club’s business model is underpinned by strong commercial partnerships, but unprecedented circumstances mean that all revenue streams are being seriously affected and we need to make major decisions on how we address this significant deficit,” he outlined. 

“The loss of income from ticket sales and other matchday activities costs the club a figure of between £300,000 and £400,000 per home game; taking lost revenues beyond £1million solely for this period in March-April when three home games have already been postponed.

“Faced with a situation where we cannot generate income from rugby activities while still having our own costs to meet, regrettably the board believes it is necessary to reduce both working hours and salaries by 25 per cent for all staff and players with effect from April 1.

“We will work closely to find solutions where this decision causes exceptional hardship for any staff member. The players and staff remain at the heart of the club and this is an extremely difficult decision to make, but it is felt this is the only appropriate course of action available to protect the current workforce and maintain the strength of our club for the longer term.”

SARACENS 

The defending champions, who accepted automatic relegation in January due to repeated salary cap breaches, issued a statement to clarify their current salary situation. “With the recent announcements that all rugby activity has been postponed and the cancellation of social gatherings and events for the foreseeable future, our club finds itself in a critical position.

“There will be a very significant drop in revenue and it is an unsustainable situation. We have asked all our players, coaches and staff across the whole organisation to support us in a reduction in salary by 25 per cent.

“This move is to protect as many jobs as possible and avoid redundancies. We will keep this situation under review at all times and we anticipate that the pay cut will last until fixtures are re-scheduled and revenue-generating activity can begin again in earnest. Our lower-paid staff have been protected from this pay cut.

“This decision has not been taken lightly by the board and as we understand it every rugby club across the country is feeling the same pain.” 

BATH

CEO Tarquin McDonald explained that cuts haven’t yet been implemented but they are likely next week. “The impact of this pandemic clearly reaches well beyond our sport, and will have a lasting effect on every one of us,” he wrote in a letter to supporters. 

“In line with the actions taken by other Premiership Clubs, we find ourselves having to make difficult decisions that can help safeguard the stability of our club and the game in these testing times. 

“We are engaged in ongoing conversations with players and staff, and this will continue into the early part of next week. Tough choices will have to be made and actions taken. However, we are quite rightly focused on how we best look after our people and our players so that when we all emerge from this crisis, which we will.

“In terms of our people, all of our playing, support and corporate staff are navigating uncharted waters as we adapt our training and working conditions to the latest government and sports governing body advice. 

“All of our staff have been amazing in this respect and we have instigated home training programmes for players, with a skeleton staff now working at the Rec as most of our staff base themselves at home.

“As we settle onto the new routine of ‘coronavirus life’, rest assured we are reviewing new ways of working and how we can communicate and engage as we all work through these strange and unprecedented times.”

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