This week the RFU announced the England Men's 15s players will be taking a 25% pay cut on their Match fee. Taking them from a generous £23,000 to a measly £17,250, totalling £395,750 across the squad. Whilst this is saddening to hear that the men will lose out on £6000 for their 80 minutes (ok fine 120 minutes including the warm up) of work, this bonus does still keep them as the highest paid rugby players in the world, phew, I was worried for them for a second!
This is by no means taking a dig at the male players, who dedicate their entire lives to play for their country & deserve to be paid well. They also have families & lives to financially support. But this fee does come ON TOP of an annual salary from both England & their clubs. It does also beg the question of why £23,000 per game was the norm if a £6,000 pay cut still keeps them as the highest paid players in the world.
The problems with this pay cut announcement come when you look at the financial landscape of the sport across both the men’s and women’s game.
£396,750 is the amount the RFU will signing off when England play Italy in the upcoming delayed Six Nations fixture, to cover the x23 Match fees for the playing squad.
To put it into perspective, the England 7s women’s (and men’s for that matter) programme has been entirely cut 12 months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Not only is this denying England fans access to an entire sport but it is pulling the rug from beneath the feet of a group of players who are about to begin the most important 12 months of their lives. This figure of £396,750 could have covered the entire annual salary of the England Women’s 7s squad for 1 year (based on x14 contracts at £20k per player) with a WHOPPING £116,750 leftover.
If the men who are to play Italy accepted only a £5000 match fee, this would allow the entire England Women’s 7s squad to be paid for 1 year.
To give this some wider context in the Women’s game, £396,750 could: Fund the entire England 7s Women's salaries for 1 year AND fully cover the entire salary of X2 Premier 15s clubs (marginally within their bountiful £60k salary cap).
Outside of England, this amount could fully cover the expenses of both the Irish & Welsh women’s 15s squads for 5 years (based on average annual expenses of £1000 per player).
I know Covid has produced tough times, financial cuts & funding changes. But let’s just keep some perspective on what’s needed, what’s wanted & what could change the lives of others.