England’s Ellis Genge has announced his plans to form a new player’s union following “poor” advice from the Rugby Players’ Association regarding pay cuts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Leicester prop is disappointed with how he and his teammates have been represented by the RPA.
Genge’s teammates, along with every other Premiership player, were handed contracts which would agree that the player would take a 25% wage cut but also allegedly gave the club the option to not re-sign the player on their old contract when the furloughed period had ended.
He spoke with Rugby Union Weekly, saying, “People were advised from the off to just go into it and sign the contracts without even reading them, almost.
Because it was a blanket cut it was easy to say ‘everyone sign this, this is the norm’ but it’s not the norm at all.
To do that blind wouldn’t be a great move, so I thought commercially everyone was being represented badly.”
Genge has insisted that he isn’t trying to replace the RPA, which was set up in 1998 to represent all of England’s Premiership players.
“We are not making a new RPA. I think they do really good stuff with welfare in rugby and they look after people really well.”
However, with the RPA being funded by the Rugby Football Union, the 25-year-old felt that they were in a compromising position as they couldn’t deliver sound advice to the players they’re supposed to be representing without “biting the hand that feeds” in this situation.
"The RPA do a lot of those negotiations, and it is always going to lean in favour to the RFU or Premiership Rugby, and I totally understand those situations. There is no malice behind that but it is fundamentally how it works at the moment.”
Whilst his actions initially enraged his club side and led to a stand-off with the Tigers’ executives, Genge says the issue is now resolved but is adamant that he made the right decision to seek external advice given the complexity of the situation.
Former England international, Andy Goode, was vocal in his criticism of Genge’s decision. He argued that Genge didn’t properly understand the situation and was getting a lot of the key details incorrect.
“He’s got quite a lot factually wrong in terms of what he’s putting out to the press and saying they need someone to represent them.
Almost every player has an agent that looks after their contract and their off-field commercial opportunities.
The RPA will never force a player to sign a contract, if someone puts something in front of you and says sign it and you don’t choose to read it, you’ve only got yourself to blame.”
Personally, I completely agree with Goode. It is understandable for Genge to think that the RPA would lean in favour of the RFU, however as a player he must take responsibility to read over contracts himself. I also find it highly unlikely that the RPA would ever force someone to sign a contract as they are renowned for doing great work and always doing what’s best for their clients.
A number of Premiership clubs have asked players to take considerable pay cuts to help cope with the financial damages COVID-19 has inflicted on the sport.
With the English Premiership being postponed for the foreseeable future, the RFU are estimated to lose at least £50 million over the next 18 months.
Chief Executive of the RFU, Bill Sweeney, has announced that his salary along with other executives will be cut by more than 25% in addition to combined board fees being reduced by 75%.
England coach, Eddie Jones, has also accepted a substantial cut to his £750,000 salary
Ultimately, Genge’s actions are selfish. The whole of English rugby is coming together to try and save the game from as much damage as possible but he is seemingly throwing his toys out of the pram at the thought of losing some of his already sizeable earnings.
The creation of a new players’ union would only result in the RFU becoming financially weaker as the RPA would lose some of its clients, resulting in a ripple effect throughout rugby weakening the game from the grassroots level upwards.
This article was written exclusively for Golear.co.uk.