Coronavirus: Welsh players warn against 'arbitrary pay cuts' as talks continue

Wales players line up for the anthems
Wales' international fixtures for the rest of 2020 have yet to be confirmed as going ahead

Wales' leading rugby players are in talks about the possibility of further pay cuts as the Welsh Rugby Union continues to count the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the players have warned that discussions must "avoid the issues we are seeing around arbitrary pay cuts and player revolts in other countries".

In April, players agreed a 25% pay cut lasting for three months until 30 June.

There is now a prospect of longer-term salary reductions.

With no rugby played in Wales since March, the WRU could lose £50m if it does not host international matches for the rest of this year.

Discussions are ongoing between the Welsh Rugby Players' Association (WRPA) and the Professional Rugby Board (PRB), representing the WRU and the four regions - Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.

The PRB praised players and the WRPA for their "exemplary attitude" as they took the "unavoidable step" of pay cuts in April.

The situation in England has taken on a different character, with rugby players heading towards a "significant legal dispute" with clubs over salary cuts.

'Share in rewards must be offered'

In a statement WRPA said: "The players fully understand the precarious position the game currently faces globally and are determined to be part of constructive dialogue to effect positive change in the game.

"The players accept that financial uncertainty could be prolonged and as such, understand why long-term pay cuts have been mooted in the media.

"However, we would also point out that... long-term pay cuts are complex and need to be jointly explored and agreed.

"It would be unacceptable for players to help keep the game afloat only for others to make profits off the back of these sacrifices in the future.

"It is not appropriate to put players in comparative terms with the game's administrators. There is no employment certainty beyond rugby retirement.

"Should they be asked to complete their work for reduced earnings, they will be asked to do so in an environment on the pitch that puts them at greater risk to Covid-19 then traditional working environments.

"A realistic apportioning of, and share in, the rewards generated must be offered as a counterbalance to any necessary readjustment required to meet immediate demands... that anticipates the upside as well as the downside.

"The opportunity exists, if stakeholders are prepared to grasp it, to create a collective solution to the current and historical issues in the professional game.

"It is against all of these points that we would all want to avoid the issues we are seeing around arbitrary pay cuts and player revolts in other countries."

As what WRU chairman Gareth Davies has described as the "catastrophic" financial implications of coronavirus become clearer, there is a possibility reductions could be extended.

No percentage figure or length of time has yet been decided as the unions and governing bodies engage in sensitive and complex discussions.

As a trade union, the WRPA aims to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the PRB, which acts on behalf of the WRU and the regions.

That would mean that players consent collectively to whatever agreement is reached, with the aim of avoiding a pay cut which would amount to a breach of contract.

Under a banding system introduced last year, the WRU pays 80% of the salaries of the 38 top-ranked players in Wales, with the players' regions contributing the remaining 20%.

Salaries for players outside that top tier are paid for entirely by the regions.

Top Stories