Seven million pounds a year. That is how much all twelve Premiership clubs, plus Newcastle, have to spend on player wages, each, not including the two ‘Excluded Players’ whose wages sit outside the cap to enable clubs to sign and retain top international talent. That is £91m in total, on wages alone, assuming clubs are coming close to reaching the limit. It really is a scandalous figure. And still Saracens failed to comply.

Seven million pounds. Funnily enough, that is also how much the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players Association collectively pledged three years ago now to preserve player welfare. It doesn’t seem like a particularly fair distribution to me, given how much clubs and governing bodies love to bang on about ‘safeguarding player health.’

Around the same time, the RFU put £32.5m into grassroots rugby. Since then, though, there have been cuts. The RFU made 64 individuals redundant in 2018, in a wave of cost-cutting exercises that left former RFU President John Owen fearing a ‘massive impact’ on the grassroots game.

Those involved in the grassroots game would probably agree, for this ‘massive impact’ seems slowly but surely to be materialising. The RFU undoubtedly does pump a lot of money into community rugby, that is for sure, but is it enough? is it directed in the right way? why is grassroots rugby not feeling the benefits?

There are no easy answers to these questions, and I am in no position to offer them. But when one sees the figures being bandied around at the very top of the game, and then sees their local club struggling to turn out sides at the weekend, it all feels a little strange. Somewhere along the way, rugby has got its priorities all muddled.

Two hundred million pounds. That is how much CVC Capital Partners invested for a 27% stake in Premiership Rugby. They are closing in on similar deals with the Celtic league and Six Nations, reportedly. At the highest level, the game is increasingly awash with money, that is self-evident. CVC apparently sees potential in rugby as a ‘brand.’ I wonder what place local rugby has in that image? I’m not so sure thirty muddy, middle-aged Welsh blokes toughing it out on a cold December morning will sell quite as well in America as the glamour of the European Cup.

You look at football, and you wonder, how on earth did it all get so astronomical? so bonkers? Rugby remains a long way off that point, but only if people play by the rules, and recognise there is more to sport than money and success.

Written by Joe Ronan.  

 

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