Peter Bills: RFU Should Be Ashamed Of Paltry Fiji Match Payment
The greed displayed by the Rugby Football Union in offering Fiji less than one percent of the profits from this weekend’s test match is shameful, writes English columnist Peter Bills.
The wealthiest rugby union in the world by some distance, England’s Rugby Football Union this week announced the sums involved for Saturday’s test match against Fiji at Twickenham. Frankly, the odour that wafted into the air above RFU headquarters was about as pleasing as that beside the local sewage farm.
Twickenham boasted that it will generate up to £10 million from the Fiji game, the second of four Tests England are playing this autumn against southern hemisphere nations. They’ll clean up anything around or beyond £55-60 million from those four games. Not bad for 320 minutes of rugby.
The RFU took the chance to tell us that it had also agreed a new financial package for its players. Each will now receive £22,000 per match, or £88,000 if a player appears in all four autumn Tests.
And then came the stench. The Fiji Rugby Union, it emerged, had asked for £150,000 for its appearance at Twickenham. To give that some context, the Springboks who were at Twickenham last weekend received £750,000. Meanwhile, New Zealand won’t be at Twickenham this autumn because they asked for a £2 million appearance fee for the All Blacks. That was turned down flat.
If you are able to make £10 million from a one off Test match against Fiji, traditionally one of the struggling Pacific Island nations, you might just have thought that the RFU would be magnanimous. If they didn’t actually offer to push Fiji’s fee to £250,000, they would surely just nod through the (near) derisory £150,000 fee.
But no. Fiji will earn a pathetic £75,000 for playing at Twickenham and helping generate £10 million to the hosts. And with an unmistakable air of colonial times, Twickenham arrogantly announced – insisted, was the word used – that the visitors were “happy with half that £150,000.”
Of course they were. In fact, I am surprised the Fijian Rugby Union did not donate its entire fee, whatever the sum, to the England players’ fund. Those poor chaps are under such pressure to fund new kitchens / bathrooms / bedrooms / cinemas / gyms in their luxury houses that it is surely unreasonable to expect them to struggle on with just £22,000 a match.
Twickenham’s patronising little pat on the head to the island nation – run along now chaps, and don’t forget to say thank you once again to your kind hosts – smacks of greed and self-indulgence. All that matters to the RFU is breaking new records for financial profit. Every year. The paid officers at headquarters get bigger and better Aston Martins, Bentleys or BMWs each year while the rugby world in the south Pacific islands continues to struggle to survive.
If ever there was a chance for Twickenham to offer the true hand of friendship, this was surely it. Fiji should have been told they would receive £500,000 out of the RFU’s £10 million for the game. Heavens alive, that would still be only 5%, but it would at least have been a warm gesture. It would have been English rugby standing proudly and saying ‘We don’t forget or ignore your difficulties; we’d like to help and we hope this sum will be of value to you going forward’.
But none of that was remotely in the air. Grab, grab and grab again was the policy unveiled by the RFU. Fiji will earn less than 1% of the total profit, 0.75% to be exact. It is a scandal and the place should hang its head in shame at such selfishness.
Quite recently, the RFU’s annual financial report showed that last year (when England hosted the Rugby World Cup, which alone generated £228 million for Twickenham), the union doubled its revenues to £407.1 million. When, we might speculate, will Fiji be offered the same opportunity to cash in big time from the staging of a World Cup?
Without risking cynicism, some might answer: only when the RFU learn some grace, humility and generosity in their dealings with the smaller rugby playing nations of the world. In other words, probably never.
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