Further details are emerging from England prop Ellis Genge’s breakaway players’ union, the Rugby Players Epoch (RPE), who have vowed to give their members a truly ‘independent’ voice amid the current financial calamity the game finds itself in.
The England loosehead’s new union are pitching themselves as an alternative to the Rugby Players Associaton (RPA), who are part-funded by Premiership Rugby and the RFU.
Earlier this week, all 13 clubs voted for a major overhaul of the current salary cap system off the back of Lord Myners’ review into the cap following the Saracens scandal. There is also widespread speculation that the current 25 per cent pay cuts imposed on players are to be made permanent. The threat of a fight between the players and their clubs just as the game is attempting to return to action could be damaging to the sport.
With much of the game’s finances up in the air, the RPE believes that Damien Hopley’s long-standing RPA are not truly independent and are not best positioned to negotiate on the part of players. However, the new RPE will be significantly more expensive for members, with a membership fee of one per cent of each player’s annual earning being asked.
An RPE prospectus document seen by RugbyPass lays out their position for potential new members. “The RPE is not demanding that players be paid more today, just the opportunity to earn more as the game grows.
“The RPA does great work but isn’t independent. The RFU does great work but made a big mistake. The PRL have grown the game brilliantly, have benefited financially, but didn’t plan for this. We can make mistakes, but we shouldn’t make them twice. There’s no benefit in getting angry.
“The RPE will work with these organisations to help the commercial prospects of the game, to identify issues and address them together. To work diligently to make sure player finances aren’t impacted like this again.
“Each member will allocate 1 per cent of annual salary to the RPE annual fund,” the document states. 24 per cent of that 1 per cent will go to the RPE as fees, while 76 per cent will be invested in ‘low-risk compounding interest products’. “Every 10 years (or earlier) players will receive 1.2x to 1.9x their subscriptions.”
For the average Premiership player on £120,000 to £200,000 a year, that will amount £1,200 to £2,000 as a membership fee, significantly more than the £200 currently being asked by Hopley’s RPA, although they would see a return on that investment over time.
Genge’s RPE also want to take clubs to task on their accounts, saying their union would want ‘independent reviews’ of club financials. “Players should not be joining loss-making entities that do not have viable plans, sinking funds, appropriate facilities to meet salary obligations.”
Players’ image rights will also be a central tenant to the RPE’s mandate. “All players should receive image rights payments” with juniors players getting 2 to 5 per cent of their salaries, and potentially up to 20 per cent.
The RPE will also offer: “Collective negotiation for the PRL and union framework contracts; collective responses at a club level to salary proposals, advice for personal service company establishment; management of approved supplier panels; and vetting of service providers” among other services for players.
Genge’s union is not without backing. RugbyPass understands that at least one prominent former England international is helping to raise funds for the fledgling players’ body.
Genge spoke publically at the end of April regarding the RPE. “We are not making a new RPA,” the 25-year-old told the BBC Sport website: “I think they do really good stuff with welfare in rugby and they look after people really well. But I do feel that people were poorly advised. People were advised from the off to sign the contracts without reading them, almost. Commercially, I didn’t think everyone was being represented very well.
“So I’m trying to put together a players’ union. It is not to replace the RPA or to combat the RFU. Honestly, it is nothing of the sort. It is just so people can get really good advice from trusted professionals in those specific fields: around commercial and legal.”
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