Premiership players have been given legal advice on how to challenge the blanket 25% pay cuts imposed by the clubs as domestic rugby’s row over wage reductions intensified on Thursday.
In the Championship, Newcastle Falcons have been plunged into turmoil with their players expected to reject their proposed swingeing pay cuts while in the Premiership the Guardian also understands the entire Leicester Tigers squad is strongly considering rejecting the 25% reduction after the Rugby Players’ Association provided legal guidance to its 700+ members.
Newcastle, currently top of the Championship but still unsure if they will be promoted next season, on Thursday asked all their players and staff to agree to be put on furlough – unpaid leave save for the £2,500 a month available as part of the government’s bailout – and a deadline of midday on Friday to respond. It is understood the squad was then offered wage top-ups meaning those earning over £75,000 a year would receive 50% of their wages while those on £37,500 to £75,000 would get the equivalent of £37,500. It is believed that without further improvements it will be rejected however, potentially leaving the Falcons in considerable financial strife after the RFU announced that all of this season’s competitions below the Premiership would be cancelled last week due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter sent by the Newcastle director of rugby, Dean Richards, and seen by the Guardian, staff are told they are expected to agree to the measures and warned that redundancies may be necessary if they do not.
In the Premiership meanwhile, an increasing number of players are set to challenge the 25% cuts imposed across the league. As reported by the Guardian, there is growing unrest, particularly among players whose contracts expire over the summer, and a sense of dismay that individual circumstances and varying salaries were not being taken into account. In a letter seen by the Guardian, the RPA has provided players with guidance on how to “reserve your position” in order to strengthen future claims for unlawful deduction of wages if pay is withheld. The RPA also acknowledges that some clubs have “simply told players the cut is happening” rather than undertaking a consultation process and it is believed that, now armed with legal guidance, an increasing number of players will not accept the 25% reduction.
The RPA’s lawyers advise the union’s members who do not want to accept the reduction to write to their clubs, informing them that the imposed cuts are “ a breach of contract and I reserve my rights in full to claim my full contractual entitlements. I will continue to honour my playing contract duties and will make a decision in due course, when I have sufficient information to allow me to make an informed decision. My continued performance of my playing contract longer term should not be considered to amount to any implied acceptance of any reduction in my pay, and I reserve my rights to claim my entitlements that I initially accepted under my contract if this proves necessary.”
The guidance goes on to add that “regardless of this approach, the club will most likely go ahead and still apply a pay reduction but you will have reserved your right to claim your contractual entitlements at a later date should you wish.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Jones has agreed a pay cut in excess of 25% to his £750,000 salary, after the RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney revealed he and the rest of the union’s five-strong executive team would be doing so.
Jones, who is currently in Japan, immediately agreed to the cut – which amounts to more than £187,500 a year – with the RFU estimating it will lose up to £50m in the next 18 months. “Eddie is overseas at present and when I contacted him regarding our executive pay reduction proposals he immediately agreed,” said Sweeney.