Memorandum submitted by the Rugby Union
Players' Association (RUPA)
Thank you for allowing RUPA to submit its views
to the Committee.
The Rugby Union Players' Association was established
within a few months of the game turning professional and represents
players in England and Wales. RUPA is part of the sports division
of the GMB.
The officers of the organisation are Bob Norster,
Chairman, Peter Winterbottom, Deputy Chairman, Richard Moon, Secretary,
and Bill Chard, Assistant Secretary, who work in close liaison
with the players.
This written submission is brief but can be
expanded upon if required with an oral presentation.
1. From the introduction of professionalism
the domestic game has lurched from one crisis to another.
2. The home Unions (Governing Bodies) have
been in a constant battle with the Professional Clubs over control
of (a) the players (b) the organisation (c) the revenue.
3. The situation has worsened of late. Initially
sponsors were found for individual clubs who were prepared to
inject large sums of money hoping for success both on the field
and expecting a financial return. This was never a realistic expectation
given the size of crowds even for popular clubs like Leicester
4. The bubble has burst, many sponsors have
now withdrawn their backing and clubs are either bankrupt or on
the verge of bankruptcy.
5. Why? Too much, too soon. At the advent
of professionalism clubs scrambled for their "best"
players shooting player salaries to unsustainable levels. Clubs
agreed contracts for one, two, three years without detailed knowledge
of their first year's income. In some cases unrealistic business
plans were put in place and in other situations hearts ruled heads
totally. The club's administrators and officials simply did not
have enough expertise to deal with and administer wage payrolls
of between £1 million and £2 million pounds per year.
6. The unions and the clubs failed to put
in place from the outset of professionalism necessary measures
to stop clubs going bust one day and re-emerging under a slightly
different name the next. Clubs were allowed to merge regardless
of the physical distance and the difference in League.
The general lack of firm policy making from
the outset of professionalism in this area allowed the whole game
to fall into disrepute.
7. Many clubs are now facing financial hardship.
Blackheath, England's oldest club has called in the receivers
and then re-emerged under a different name leaving creditors,
including players, thousands of pounds out of pocket. Richmond,
Orrell, Bristol, Wakefield, London Scottish and many other clubs
have at times not been able to pay their players contractual dues.
8. Many players had good full time occupations
outside of sport but were pushed by their clubs into becoming
full time professionals. They were told that they needed to train
every day or they would not be included in the team. Now many
of those players are owed money by their clubs and have seen their
initial annual earnings reduced. More worryingly young players
were enticed into professional rugby at the expense of pursing
a trade or career or further education.
9. The unions and their professional clubs
need to consult with the Players' Association and quickly agree
a framework of bylaws governing the conduct of clubs facing and
experiencing financial difficulty.
1. The relationship between the two codes
has improved dramatically since the introduction of professionalism.
2. There is now a free flow of players between
the codes which is obviously subject to contractual agreements.
1. Although this is not an area that RUPA
would normally be involved in we welcome investment from any area
including public support.
2. Modern, comfortable stadiums will encourage
people to regularly attend matches. Many stadiums are in need
3. With public funding, stadiums could possibly
be used in partnership with the clubs as a benefit for the whole
community hosting a variety of events.
4. Stadiums are often underused facilities.
1. Each of the bodies referred to above
have an active part to play in contributing to amateur or junior
development and participation.
2. For Players' Associations to play their
full part in this promotion and development they need regular
funding, best provided by legislation channelling monies from
television sponsorship directly to the player organisation.
3. RUPA aspires to provide the support for
players in the same way as the Professional Football Association
does for footballers. Unfortunately RUPA has no such funding.
Other Issues of Importance to Players
1. The poor financial state of professional
clubs may well cause up and coming talented players to "think
twice" before signing up to an extremely uncertain future
as a professional rugby player.
2. Education needs to be provided to players
running parallel with their playing careers.
Many young players will sign professional contracts
at age 17-18 without any qualifications, earn moderately for 10
or 12 years and leave the game with virtually nothing.
There is an increasing trend for clubs to offer
young players an agreement whereby clubs pay college tuition fees
in return for loyalty to the club. RUPA is concerned that if the
club goes bankrupt the player or parent will be left footing the
3. Only a small number of players at the
top end of the game (mostly internationals) will earn regular
high salaries. Only Players' Associations can adequately run the
education programmes suitable to players needs.
4. Again television revenue must be channelled
through Players' Associations for this purpose. RUPA feels that
rugby has suffered because of the limited amount of terrestrial
TV coverage for club and international rugby.
5. Adequate pension cover and injury cover
can again only be achieved through the Players' Association.
6. RUPA is concerned by the influx of "foreign"
players at the expense of young English players. The balance is
top heavy with foreign players with limited sanctions applying
for any clubs who breach the Department of Employment and Home
7. RUPA is concerned about the influx of
"agents" into the sport which has pushed up salary levels
artificially and diverted funds out of the game.
The standard and fitness of Professional Rugby
Union Players is at an all time high.
The game as a spectacle has improved considerably.
International matches continue to be sell outs.
Unfortunately the professionalism on the field
has not been matched by the same level of professionalism off
Squabbling between the unions and the clubs,
a lack of sound financial planning by clubs, a refusal to modernise
by the unions coupled with the early mistakes lead us to where
For the game to progress the player's voice
should be heard at all levels. Very few senior players go into
the administration of the game at governing body level because
there is no financial incentive to do so. RFU Committee Members
are unpaid. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Players wish the game to succeed at both club
and international level. We believe that many of the problems
that have besieged Rugby Union since the advent of professionalism
could have been solved more clearly and more quickly by entering
into serious dialogue with the Players' Association.
The game has an excellent future in the professional
world if lasting peace can be achieved, some financial plans put
in place and the necessary bylaws established giving order where
mayhem exists at present.