The approach of the Premiership clubs to salary cuts has led to an “absolute mess” of a situation, says the Rugby Players Association’s Christian Day.
The majority of clubs have asked their players to take 25% wage reductions to help with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Day, the RPA player liaison officer and former RPA chairman, says “more dialogue” was needed from the start.
“All 13 clubs have done this their own way,” he said.
“There was no discussion with us beforehand and no central discussion from Premiership Rugby [PRL] either.”
Since the clubs announced the cuts, the RPA has been advising players on their legal position and rights.
While the vast majority of players have accepted the need to make a financial sacrifice to help their beleaguered employers – with clubs set to lose millions of pounds during the pandemic – Day says a more considered and nuanced approach would have been advisable.
“It became our job to inform players why [the cuts] were happening – which is pretty obvious, it’s a global pandemic and the clubs were suffering,” Day explained on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
“I think the majority of players can understand why a club needs some help, but at either end of the scale – and this is me speaking – you’ve got academy players who don’t earn much money at all, and you have guys retiring at the end of the season who are going to be put in a stressful position.
“The easy thing is to just do it [take the cuts], and the other extreme is to say the club have broken the contract and either leave the club or sue the club which is not something we or I would advise.
“The middle ground is to inform the players legally where they stand, and try to give them what most of the players want, which is the reassurance of how long it is going to last, how long it is going to affect [the players] and can they have some time to think about it, rather than just telling them it is going to happen.
“Each club has gone about it quite differently and that has produced 13 different problems to try and solve.
“What we would have preferred from the start was a lot more dialogue and understanding which is what seems to be happening in football currently. They are not just saying ‘this is going to happen’, there is instead a discussion of why it needs to happen and how it is all going to work.”
While many clubs have excluded lower-earners from the cuts, this has not been the case across the board, something Day and the RPA have sought to rectify.
“There are academy players out there earning minimum wage, there absolutely are: £8,000 a year. For them to take a 25% pay cut, for me, is not fair. Those are the extremes of the situation we are trying to temper a little bit,” the former Northampton lock added.
“All 13 clubs have done this their own way. Some started at the end of March, some are doing it for April. Each club had its own sliding scale as to who got cut what and each club would have a different bottom.
“Most clubs had a £25,000 ceiling on the cuts, but some didn’t, and then you had the complication of the government bringing in the furlough scheme, which added more complexity to it.
“Without a central governance saying ‘this is what is going to happen and why’ it is an absolute mess really.
“Everyone knows what we are in is unprecedented, the clubs are all suffering and the whole nation is suffering, but it’s just a case of trying to find a solution that works for as many people as possible.”