Super League clubs will notify their players of proposals to cut salaries across the competition over the coming days, with a warning that the reductions in wages may last for the entirety of this year.
Rugby league is waiting on a decision from the government regarding emergency funding, with a decision expected in the near future. However, it is believed more needs to be done internally to ensure the sport and its clubs make the necessary financial adjustments to survive irrespective of that decision by Westminster.
The Guardian has learned that all 12 top-flight clubs are in the process of putting together pay-cut proposals, which are expected to be sent to players by the end of this week. With the prospect of the domestic season remaining on hiatus for a prolonged period, it has left many clubs without the valuable income from gate receipts and sponsorship that, for some, is often required to stay afloat on a yearly basis.
But professional players in this country may have to be prepared to take a reduction on their salary for the whole season, rather than simply for the period until play resumes as first expected. Rather than Super League sending out a competition-wide proposal for pay cuts, clubs have instead formed their own packages based on their own financial projections, though it is believed that at a recent meeting, clubs agreed to all try to work within a 10% of one another.
Clubs are taking such a long-term approach to pay cuts not only due to the immediate cashflow issue the sport faces with no games being played, but also the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic when the season eventually restarts. One Super League executive insisted that: “With the economy likely to be struggling for a long time, and huge unemployment expected in northern, working-class areas – which is effectively our support base – the idea of people forking out for two games a week is fanciful.”
That has led clubs to determine that any pay cuts implemented across the competition – which will begin immediately, with the players’ April salaries being reduced – will have to be long-term and be in place for at least the whole of the current contract year, which runs until the end of November. The feeling within many boardrooms across the sport is that it could take years for rugby league to return to the financial footing it was on before the crisis began.
There have even been calls from some clubs about a discussion over potentially lowering the salary cap to secure the long-term future of the game, though it is understood that seems unlikely at this stage. The Guardian also understands that clubs have collectively agreed to take a stand of solidarity against any player who tries to launch legal proceedings as a result of the cuts being proposed, effectively agreeing not to sign the player should they become a free agent in the future.