Dan Leo, CEO of the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare organisation, has a message for Tier 1 rugby nations as they face serious financial worries: “welcome to our world.”
The irony of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa asking the Northern Hemisphere nations to help cover lost income by agreeing to share revenue from any test matches that can be arranged in Europe later this year – COVID-19 restrictions permitting – is not lost on Leo who wrote to all of the Six Nations chief executives in July last year outlining the PRPW argument that a ten per cent profit share model in favour of a Tier Two side being hosted by a Tier 1 country should be introduced.
Now, with Tier One nations adding their voices to the argument, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga are aiming to jump on a bigger bandwagon and use any revenue sharing agreement as a template for their own bid to be allowed to earn much-needed income to fund the sport in the Islands nations.
Leo received neutral responses from the Six Nations CEO’s and has asked Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, to help press for a fair deal. Leo told RugbyPass: “The current crisis really is a case for the Tier One nations of welcome to our world. These kind of financial problems are what the Pacific Islands nations deal with every year – it is normal for us. What COVID-19 has done is bring the same situation to the doorsteps of the bigger nations.
“It is very easy for the Tier One nations to ignore this kind of issue when you don’t ever have to deal with it yourself, but that has now changed.
“This should be a world-wide discussion not one only for the Tier One nations to get through this current situation. It could be a stop-gap until Unions are profitable again after COVID-19 passes but something should be written into World Rugby law that after this crisis Tier Two nations should still get a benefit from playing the bigger nations. We are talking about the long term sustainability of the sport.
“We received standard “we will consider it” letters from the Six Nations and it has now been eight months and I copied in Bill Beaumont and Brett Gosper (WR CEO) in and left it with Bill who said he would drive it. We are trying to find out exactly where we are and if those letters were just fob-you-off notes.”
Leo estimates with the expansion of Major League Rugby in the USA there are more than 1,000 players from the Pacific Islands or of Islands heritage playing around the world and the PRPW membership covers nearly 600 with many spread all over Europe. With domestic leagues bringing in pay cuts – 25 per cent in England – it has major implications for the Islands players. It is estimated that 20 per cent of Tonga’s GDP is from money sent back by rugby players operating overseas and the pay cuts directly affect the money that would have been earmarked for transfer home to support large family groups.
With that kind of pressure on players who are unable to earn money – particularly those on pay-for-play contracts- the pandemic is creating serious mental health issues for those self-isolating. Leo added: “We are trying to manage our players to help them get through this crisis and some are trapped in smaller nations where English is not widely spoken which has an impact on schooling for their kids. For the players in the Premiership a 25 percent cut is the money they would send home.
“We are producing videos addressing mental health and have counsellors who are contacting players to help with isolation which can be a factor at the best of times. It has been a long week already and it is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now