Premiership rugby salary cap row deepens
NEWS: A bitter row between English Premiership rugby clubs and the players’ union over a salary cap reduction deepened on Friday, with both sides firing accusations against each other.
The changes, agreed by clubs this week, were made in response to the “significant financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL).
The salary cap will be reduced for up to three seasons from the 2021/22 campaign from £6.4 million ($8 million) to £5 million.
PRL then hope to return to the current level before the start of the 2024/25 season at the latest.
The changes cover teams’ overall budgets rather than individual players’ contracts.
Many players accepted a temporary 25 percent pay cut after professional Rugby Union ground to a halt in March because of the pandemic.
But the Rugby Players’ Association said it was “unequivocally” opposed to making such cuts permanent.
The RPA on Wednesday criticised the lack of a “collaborative and transparent approach” from PRL and warned of a “significant legal dispute unless meaningful and genuine dialogue takes place urgently”.
The 13 clubs, including newly-promoted Newcastle, issued a statement on Friday saying that the RPA had agreed to a reduction in their members’ wages.
“In private discussions with Premiership Rugby, the RPA accepted and understood that the need for salary reductions were required and stated 25 percent was reasonable,” the statement said.
The clubs said the actions of the RPA “have served to sow division and create uncertainty during a critical period that could define the future of professional rugby in the UK”.
“Player welfare is of high priority to the clubs, and our growing concern is that individuals are not receiving appropriate advice at this current time,” the statement added.
“For example, the RPA urging players not to negotiate a compromise, privately threatening strike action and publicly opposing reductions without offering any feasible solutions has resulted in a predicament that suits nobody.”
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But later Friday the RPA issued an angry point-by-point response.
It said the organisation had never threatened strike action and would not recommend it as an appropriate course of action.
“In relation to the statement released by the Premiership clubs earlier today, the RPA is compelled to address the factually incorrect comments contained within and ensure that our members and all the game’s stakeholders, including supporters, are clear on the facts,” said the RPA statement.
“Our response to the specific issues are below:
“It is a sad day in the history of rugby that the game finds itself in this position. PRL and the clubs have decided to publicly criticise the RPA and, by doing so, personally attack players and their representatives. Throughout this crisis both the RPA and players have been open to a collaborative and positive solution to address the long-term financial viability of the game.
“Our Players Board met on the 26th May to receive a formal proposal from PRL regarding the future of the game. In reality, the proposal was singularly for immediate and permanent pay cuts. Our Board voted unanimously against that proposal. To suggest there have been any other agreements in relation to permanent pay cuts is complete fabrication.
“On the 22nd April, a non-disclosure agreement was sent to the RPA but categorically did not include any financial information and no deadline for response. To reiterate, at no point has the RPA been provided with any detailed financial information from PRL or the clubs. This NDA was not signed and could never be without RPA Players Board approval. As already stated above, our Board voted unanimously against immediate and permanent pay cuts.
“PRL and their member clubs are fully aware that, at the same meeting, the Players Board unanimously voted for a counter proposal of independent mediation, chaired by a leading QC through Sports Resolutions. This counter proposal remains unanswered and is a resounding example of the players being open to a professional, collaborative and constructive dialogue to help address the future of the game. The offer remains on the table.
“The changes to the Salary Cap as announced on Wednesday and the arbitrary June 18th deadline for contracts to be “existing” were passed with no consultation of players. That has led to a significant number of our members faced with immediate contractual decisions to make about their long-term futures in order to facilitate this change for the clubs. This approach exposes the lack of governance within the Premiership, as recently highlighted by Lord Myners’ independent review.
“The RPA have never threatened strike action and would not recommend this as an appropriate course of action.
“Regarding the welfare of players; PRL states that there is no intention to reduce Academy salaries of those players at the low end of the spectrum, however there is evidence that this has already happened at some clubs.
“The RPA has acted, and will continue to act, in the best interests of our player membership and support their legal rights.
“The players are a vital part of the game and deserve to be treated with respect, which is a key value of rugby. The current unreasonable approach that the clubs are taking will continue to cause substantial long-term damage to player and club relations going forward. The clubs statement ends with a call for mutual understanding and respect, both require reciprocation. Our offer of mediation remains open.”
Premiership Rugby last week announced plans to resume the English top-flight season on August 15.
Additional source: RPA