Professional Rugby: Financial Consequences at Lower League Levels

How times have changed in the world of Rugby Union. I well recall, many years ago, standing in a queue of players waiting for our travel expenses to be paid out after playing in an England trial game at Twickenham and asking for a "half crown" for the return bus fair from Euston Station. It was quite a surprise when I was reminded that the price for the bus ride was eight pence less than the sum requested. And was paid accordingly!

Yes, such was the world of amateurism!

But what of today in the 15 a side code's totally open professionalism at all levels of the game, a system designed to place a club in a League from which progress can only be made if its players are being paid to play? Or if the club has a kind "Sugar Daddy" at the helm generous enough to propel the team forward while he is in control? Or bankruptcy when he walks away! Many Rugby Union clubs are currently paying players who are nowhere near the standards expected of a professional while considerable revenue, which could be used to better the club's fabric, is being wasted.

It is laughable to hear that some clubs do not wish to be promoted to a higher League and possibly a higher standard of play because they have not the resources to pay players to keep the club at a higher level.

The maintenance of a truly totally open professionalism for all Union teams or individual players may seem to be the ideal system, and is certainly a far better one than the harsh, wholly  totally, amateur ruling of yesteryear. Once looked upon with disdain by many Rugby Union stalwarts for its insistence on paying its best players from as early as 1895,Rugby League has now divided itself into two vibrant and fair League structures which appear to suit the ambitions of all financially on and off the field. The 13 a side code, in Britain, promotes two separate sections of play - one at a full time and part-time levels and another at an amateur level with a huge distinction and difference between the varying player levels and attitudes. In the amateur section the rules regarding any payment of players are strict.

Far too many Rugby Union clubs have to make key decisions while coping with the code's totally, open professionalism at all levels of play when, whatever the ambitions of its players, the committee need to find the money to pay for the daily upkeep and refurbishment of the very club itself. Do we update the changing rooms or do we pay the good stand off "a few bob" for his services and to stop him from moving on to another club?

Yes, times have changed and the outcome of a fully open professional format for clubs in Rugby Union is not without its difficulties.

Ray French (June 2018)