The Leicester Tigers players’ revolt and potential legal action might have been understandable at the start of the coronavirus crisis but it doesn’t look good at all now. While the source of the leak to the national press hasn’t been revealed, most people assume it has come from the players’ side rather than the club and I don’t think it’s going to do them any favours.
Actions like this would have been understandable a few weeks ago but the situation has moved on and it has become apparent just how bleak the picture is for the sport, so I’m not sure there will be anywhere near as much sympathy for the players now.
According to reports, the Tigers squad rejected plans to slash salaries by 25 per cent following legal advice, but the club pushed through the deductions anyway. It might not be fair to compare players with people doing other jobs to some extent but other rugby club employees on £20,000 per year are being furloughed, so it would be interesting to know what they make of all this.
On top of that, there are the fans to consider. A lot of them will be sat at home reading about the players’ situation having been furloughed, lost a lot of their income or maybe even having lost their jobs in some cases. All clubs and playing groups will have had similar conversations behind the scenes and players at other clubs will be unhappy, but it seems that a lot of the Tigers players have opted to stand together and at least start the ball rolling towards legal action.
There was also a recent story in the media about Bath as well, which was swiftly dealt with by captain Charlie Ewels, so the Leicester players aren’t on their own, but they look out of step now with the severity of coronavirus and the financial problems facing rugby having now moved on.
So much for the idea that it would be easy enough to reschedule any postponed internationals https://t.co/KGpx0lGsC4
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 24, 2020
One of the players’ main issues is that they have been deducted wages without their consent and that has happened already in the latest pay packet. You can see why that wouldn’t go down well and I can empathise with them on that front. Nobody is enjoying this situation at all and you would have hoped that an agreement could have been reached between the players and the club rather than this deduction just being imposed.
I have already said that when we first heard about the prospect of pay cuts, I would have been with them in saying I wasn’t happy about it but I just feel it’s unavoidable now and this doesn’t look good at all. It’s obviously through no fault of their own but rugby players can’t do their jobs at the moment with no sport being played, so I don’t think they can reasonably demand 100 per cent of their wages when the businesses that are paying them are struggling so badly.
Almost everyone is being affected by coronavirus in some way and for rugby clubs, the revenue has dried up. There are no gate receipts, hospitality income, etc, and that may not even return when the rugby does resume as some games may be played behind closed doors.
Consequently, there is just no way that they can go on with the same outgoings and now we know how precarious the financial situation is there has to be an element of the players showing solidarity with their clubs so that they have jobs to go back to.
We have spoken a fair bit about the changing picture at Leicester over the past few years in terms of the hierarchy of the club and the relationship with the fans and the family ethos does seem to have fallen by the wayside. This latest development has the potential to drive a real wedge between players and fans, though.
Also, league positions and performances on the pitch shouldn’t come into the equation here because it is people’s livelihoods we are talking about but, unfortunately for the Tigers players, the fact that they have underperformed for the last couple of years will make it look worse to a lot of people.
It’s easy for me to sit here as a retired player and say that players are just going to have to accept a pay cut but I honestly don’t see another option given the predicament we have found ourselves in as a sport. I do empathise with the players in that I’m sure some clubs could have handled things better but that doesn’t change the financial situation they are in and the cuts were inevitable.
Nobody wants to take a pay cut and a rugby player’s career is a short one, but this is a story that doesn’t reflect well on anyone. Hopefully, the players can take the broader financial situation into account and it isn’t one that will rumble on for much longer.
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