English rugby’s top professional players are formulating a battle plan to head off attempts by the cash strapped Gallagher Premiership clubs to retain the 25 per cent pay cuts that have been imposed during the COVID-19 shutdown.
With leading clubs making it clear they believe a 25 per cent wage cut should remain when the season gets underway again following the Government’s green light for sport to return from tomorrow, RugbyPass has confirmed the Rugby Players Association (RPA) board has turned down the idea of a continued wage cut. It is understood the RPA and its members will formulate their position this week once the Premiership clubs have confirmed their stance over the wage cut.
The RPA need to take a strong stand to head off disquiet which surfaced last month when Leicester’s Ellis Genge claimed a breakaway players’ union was being set up to put up a stronger fight against the clubs.
The threat of a damaging fight between the players and the clubs just as the game is attempting to return to action would paint rugby union in England in a very negative light and both sides will want to avoid further disruption to a season that has already faced unprecedented financial pressures.
With BT having paid its final quarterly instalment of around£8m to Premiership Rugby, which has kept the money in central funds, there is financial help for clubs who will have to pay to get their players and staff tested. The Government has also confirmed that players can remain on furlough up to the point when they start playing again which is another boost to empty coffers.
Other European leagues are continuing with pay cuts with the Top 14 competition having been torn up and the season ended. However, Premiership Rugby clubs want to find a way of play all nine remaining rounds plus the semi-final playoff games and the final.
In Wales, the four professional teams: Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons and Blues are facing a seismic set back with the Sunday Times reporting funding from the Welsh Rugby Union is set to drop from about £27 million to less than £3 million over the next year.
Significantly, the Welsh Rugby Players Association agreed to a 25 per cent wage cut for three months from April 1, but that is likely to be extended significantly.
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