England’s Premiership rugby clubs are informing players they are being furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis with individual letters expected to be sent out by all 12 clubs.

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The Rugby Players Association is understood to be “picking up the pieces” and advising the players of their legal position in relation to their contracts following this latest move by the clubs to try and avoid going out of business but the union has issued a strongly worded statement denying they fuelling unrest amongst their members.

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The clubs are taking this step amid fears some could be pushed to the financial brink without match day income and under the Government scheme clubs will be able to claim back £2,500 per month per individual from the state.

As they continue to offer their more than 700 members advice, the RPA said: “To suggest that the RPA are trying to turn the players against the clubs is wholly disingenuous. As the Players Union, our duty is to pass on as much information as possible in a fast-moving and ever-changing daily environment.

“No one knows when the rugby season will start again, but we all recognise and understand that the professional clubs are the lifeblood of the game in this country and we all share a collective responsibility to emerge from this crisis in as strong a position as possible.

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“Following on from the news earlier this month that the PRL member clubs were making pay cuts across their 13 clubs, there have been several misleading reports in the media regarding the stance of the RPA and our 700+ members impacted. During that time we have been working closely with all playing squads providing them with legal and financial guidance to assist them with personal decisions in relation to the imposed salary cuts.

“From the outset the players have recognised the current global financial crisis caused by COVID-19 and both they and the RPA fully support the principle of pay cuts. We all understand that the very material alternative is that some of the PRL Clubs, like many other businesses during this Pandemic, are at risk of insolvency, potentially causing hundreds of job losses across the industry amongst playing and non-playing staff, which would be devastating.

“Based on the financial freefall the game and the world is facing, accepting a pay cut and supporting the clubs is undoubtedly a positive step for the long term survival of our industry. We are in constructive dialogue with Premiership Rugby to understand what happens next in relation to players coming off contract, injured players, lower-earning Academy players and deliberating when returning to full training and subsequent pay may be possible.

“To expect that players or any employees will not take advice without asking reasonable questions around their futures and livelihoods, especially when they are on fixed term contracts has made this process very challenging, but we are working through that. The entire player group sees the bigger picture here, is supportive of the clubs and wants to continue the constructive and positive dialogue to find the right solutions for the game in England.

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“Our discussions will continue across the clubs and with PRL so that the game is aligned when a clearer picture emerges of how and when rugby can resume. Until that time, we will be making no further comment on this matter.”

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