Coronavirus: Premiership clubs to ask players to take considerable wage cuts

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Premiership
There are nine rounds of Premiership matches remaining before the scheduled semi-finals and final in June

Several English Premiership clubs will ask players to take considerable pay cuts to help cope with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Club losses will far exceed £1 million, with some players expected to take a cut of up to 25% to help prevent financial crisis.

The players' union are seeking "urgent clarification" on the issue.

The board of the Rugby Players' Association met via conference call on Thursday to consider their position, and subsequently wrote to all their members to alert them to the developing situation.

"While we fully appreciate the unprecedented times around global sport, we are also seeking urgent clarification on the current financial impact for English club rugby," RPA chief executive Damian Hopley told BBC Sport.

"Our advice is that players hear what the clubs have to say and then we will consider a collective position across the league."

Non-playing staff could see their wages reduced as well, especially senior executives.

Even though players across the league have been stood down for the foreseeable future, Sale and Gloucester are among the clubs to schedule urgent meetings with all members of staff on Friday to discuss the current situation.

While the Premiership clubs are propped up by lucrative deals with broadcaster BT Sport, sponsors Gallagher, as well as an agreement with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the majority of top-flight organisations are loss-making.

Earlier in the week the Northampton chief executive Mark Darbon spoke of the "huge challenge" facing the league in the current climate, with Saints expecting to lose up to £400,000 for every home match called off because of the pandemic.

However the clubs all received a considerable windfall of around £13m in the last year from private equity giants CVC, who purchased a 27% stake in Premiership Rugby.

RFU yet to offer financial aid to clubs

Meanwhile, the RFU have yet to provide any financial reassurance to their clubs amid fears of ruin below Premiership level.

The Scottish Rugby Union have announced a hardship fund to aid struggling clubs, while the Welsh Rugby Union have also strongly pledged financial support to their members.

However the RFU say they are "investigating a range of options", with more detail expected next week.

Play at all levels of the game in England has been suspended until at least 14 April.

"We appreciate that we are in unprecedented times and we are here to provide support to our clubs and their communities where we can during this challenging period," said an RFU statement.

A number of grassroots clubs have voiced their concern about the situation to the BBC.

"We've not been told anything about financial support and to be honest haven't really received a lot of direct communication [from the RFU]," said one club representative.

The RFU say chief executive Bill Sweeney is constantly liaising with the government, the sporting industry and the wider rugby community.

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