Two Premiership rebellions on the cards
NEWS: The English game is stumbling from one crisis to the other, at a time when ‘catastrophic’ financial losses are predicted.
Between the Premiership clubs and the leading players, there are two ‘rebellions’ on the cards in a game on the brink of ruin.
The Rugby Paper reports that there are plans for a breakaway from Premier Rugby Limited gathered on Tuesday, with 10 clubs now actively in discussions about the future course of action.
The publication reported that four clubs joined the original six in the rebellion.
Talks centred on the clubs’ relationship with PRL, as well as the insurance claims for business interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, at the top of the agenda.
Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has come out in support of the under-fire Rugby Players’ Association, insisting his club won’t entertain any of its players’ joining the proposed breakaway players union.
Upwards of 100 Premiership players have reportedly shown interest in joining the union that England and Leicester prop Ellis Genge has suggested could happen – following the pay cuts that have hit the sport in England during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bigger issue is the threatening club breakaway, which now have in their camp Martyn Thomas, the former RFU chairman.
The clubs have contacted Thomas in an ‘advisory capacity’.
“The PRL wage bill is costing them almost £3-million a year, which many of the clubs consider to be a luxury, especially as they face a situation in which they do not know the financial implications going forward,” Thomas said.
He added that lockdown measures, which preclude stadiums being open, and therefore no chance of gate revenue, puts the clubs in a very difficult predicament.
“One of their biggest concerns is that if and when the season restarts they will have to play in empty stadiums, and this is compounded by the television revenue from their broadcast deal, which ends in a year, is subject to renegotiation and is likely to be a significantly lesser sum.”
Thomas says Premiership clubs have even mooted an Armageddon scenario in order to stop haemorrhaging money.
“One suggestion is clubs ask the RFU to look at their finances, and if they fail an insolvency test, they would be relegated automatically.”
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The other rebellion is being led by Genge, who has claimed some players were frustrated by the advice they were given, prompting him and others to check out if there would be a groundswell of sufficient support to potentially set-up an alternative to the long-standing RPA which has been in existence since the late 1990s.
However, if that ambition does come to fruition and a separate representative body is founded, it would likely encounter trouble getting support from Sale judging by the sharp remarks of the Sharks boss in a RugbyToday interview.
Speaking amid uncertainty that the game in England will be given the green light to resume the indefinitely suspended 2019/20 season, Diamond claimed: “As well as rugby, my background is I’m a builder, a printer in the newspapers. I was the last apprentice in Manchester in the newspapers from 1983 to 1985. It was union-led and it was fantastic. Unions are good if they are not radical and the RPA do a good job.
“Players have got to be careful for what they wish for sometimes and players have to understand the economics of life. No disrespect to players, sometimes they don’t when they are playing. They see this vacuum they are in and some earn a fantastic living. Course it’s not football money and you probably can’t retire on it but you know what, it’s a fantastic, fantastic way of life and generally if you’re good at it you can earn upwards of £300,000, £400,000, £500,000 a year, certainly if you’re an international.
“It’s the only time in my generation that we have had to go to our employers and accept that we do need to take a reduction and that is just one aspect I am looking at. The RPA do a good job. They can be better in some areas but can’t every organisation? The worry for me is that people are looking at it selfishly.
“The masses at Sale, for example, all agreed immediately that this was the thing for the club. Nobody asked what are other clubs doing. We said: ‘This is our club, this is how we run it’. And I just think it sticks in the back of the throat a little bit that people are suggesting another union would get them more or look after them better.
“They are looked after by all the clubs very well and the players’ union, with its limited resource, does a fairly good job. You have got to be careful what you wish for some of the time. In these sporting and world days of austerity, I would be tempted to keep my head down, work hard, support the club I work for and if you’re a good player, at your next negotiation you can get some more money.
“If you think you have had bad advice off the RPA there is plenty of lawyers about who you can go have a chat with for an hour and it will cost you £100 or so. None of the players who I feel are in this gang who want to start their own union are short or £100 for half an hour’s advice. I wouldn’t be entertaining any union at Sale.”
Diamond added that getting players and staff on board with the pay cut idea at Sale was a straightforward exercise. “I don’t know how other clubs have done it but when we asked our players to take a 25 per cent wages cut people like Faf de Klerk agreed immediately and signed the document there and then.
“Within six days, every single player, member of staff at Sale had signed it and some were in tears that they had still got a job. That for me has been really refreshing and you know you have got good people. Not even a question. There are a couple of people who fell into a hardship category we have helped and we would always do that but we have got a really good thing going at the club and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Sources: The Rugby Paper & RugbyPass
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