Wasps’ Lima Sopoaga has cried foul over the way players across the Gallagher Premiership generally found out about wage cuts via the media rather than through proper club channels. The game in England has been in financial turmoil since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of the 2019/20 campaign. 

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It was followed by a temporary 25 per cent wage cut that has since become permanent as clubs struggle to balance their books ahead of the targeted August 15 restart of the league.  

The layoff led to four months of speculation and rumour affecting the game and reflecting on the fallout, former All Blacks international Sopoaga wishes the matter was handled far more diplomatically rather than getting played out in the media. 

Appearing on the latest episode of The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton, Sopoaga explained: “The game here (in the UK) is very business orientated. Like, it’s driven by the business first rather than the culture of the team. 

“If you get the culture of the team right, the business will succeed. But here it’s maybe get the business right and then the team should succeed. That is what I feel coming from where I have come from (New Zealand). 

“In terms of pay cuts, these are trying times for everybody, not just rugby but around the world. I get that at some point players are going to have to make sacrifices. Everybody around the world is making sacrifices at the moment and for some of us, we are still getting paid while we were not even training for the last three or four months. 

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“The way I’d see it is you are getting 75 per cent of 100 which is better than 0 per cent of 100. But at the same time, I understand that rugby is a business and we are the product. Without rugby players, you don’t have a product. 

“There needed to be more transparency between clubs and players, more open chats and more open dialogue because we were finding out about stuff in the bloody Daily Mail, you know what I mean?

“Guys were messaging each other on Instagram: ‘Like bro, I’m hearing you are getting pay cuts’. This is guys from other English clubs and I’m just like, ‘Bro I have no f***in’ clue’. But then you hear 25 per cent: 25 per cent is a bloody lot of quid, you know what I mean? 

“So there wasn’t enough open transparency, there wasn’t enough open dialogue between clubs and players and that is why you have kind of got guys like at Leicester all of a sudden just walking out. 

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“That is how it is being portrayed, that they have walked out on their clubs but actually that is not really the truth is it? They are well within their rights to reserve their rights and then being told you have to sign this by this date at 25 per cent less or else.

“Guys have decided that isn’t what I need to do right now and fair f***s to them because they stood their ground. Like I said before, it is a business and we are the product.

“As a collective, as rugby players, we have got to understand that and I listened to a podcast the other day with Ellie (Genge) talking and it was a really good eye-opener to everything he was trying to do (with his now shelved players’ union plan)

“He was on the right path but it is scary times at the moment and guys are separated. Maybe if as players we were together as a collective we would have had more power over what happened, what has been happening and what is going to happen for the game going forward.”

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