Premiership players’ chiefs will take part in one of the most important meetings in the history of the sport today to try and deliver a return to play programme to get rugby started again and are adamant their role has not been undermined by a call to set up a rival organisation by Ellis Genge, the Leicester and England prop.
Genge has claimed the Rugby Players Association (RPA) should have been more proactive in dealing with the average pay cuts of 25 per cent imposed on Premiership players due to the suspension of the season, although individual deals are handled by player agents who annually take out more than £6.5m in fees from the professional game in England.
RugbyPass understands the RPA and Genge have held discussions about the prop forward’s concerns over the handling of pay cuts imposed by the Premiership clubs, however, a return to play timeline will be the main focal point of today’s Professional Game Board (PGB) online meeting.
The PGB meeting will involve the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the RPA with player welfare top of the agenda with plans to play up to three games a week in controlled environments once the government give the green light to start playing. It is understood to complete the outstanding nine regular rounds of matches and the play-offs by mid-August, any mid-week games would only take place every other week and all clubs will have to commit to using their entire playing squads to share the playing load.
Damian Hopley, chief executive of the RPA which receives funding from the RFU and Premiership Rugby, said: “There has never been a more important time for players to be standing together. There is a lot of discussion around return to play and we have sent out the five stages to achieve this to all our members and the PGB meeting will have this front and centre in terms of getting the game back up and running. Of course, it is all linked up with government advice and there is a huge collaboration between the RPA, RFU and Premiership Rugby to try and move this forward.
“Rugby normally only plays mid-week during Rugby World Cups and British and Irish Lions tours and that is unique to those tours and tournaments and we are seeking squad rotation and to ensure the opinions of strength and conditioning experts are critical to make sure players are not playing three games a week. That is fundamental to any return to play to navigate our way through this.
“Our funding of £1.5m goes to our insurance, development and education programmes and all of our trade union activity and legal costs come from our members’ subscriptions and the successful commercial programme we run. We haven’t made England the best paid international squad in the world for the last 16 years by going into meetings and agreeing the first number put on the table.”
Hopley confirmed that players who have contracts with new clubs starting on July 1 would be part of their new team’s squad which means, for example, Harlequins losing England prop Kyle Sinckler to Bristol on that date. The situation is similar to a player who moves mid-season like Chris Ashton joining Quins from Sale, although the number involved is going to be much greater than normal and could throw up extra complications with teams having to change line out calls as one of their forwards has switched the opposition taking that inside information with him.
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