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IRFU confirm pay deferrals of 10 to 50% as players go into 'stand down' period

The union hopes that players can return to collective training on 18 May.

THE IRFU HAS confirmed that its staff, including all professional players, will have their wages reduced by 10% to 50% due to the financial pressure on Irish rugby caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

a-disappointed-dave-kilcoyne-keith-earls-jacob-stockdale-robbie-henshaw-and-ultan-dillane-after-the-game-2322020 The final two games of Ireland's Six Nations campaign were postponed. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With the reductions to be enacted in April, the IRFU said that it “hopes to return to full pay, and repay any deferrals, as soon as possible.”

Ireland had their home Six Nations tie against Italy postponed this month, denying the IRFU a vital payday at the Aviva Stadium. With Ireland’s final-round visit against France among the other postponed games, the union has not yet received crucial prize money from the Six Nations.

And with all professional club rugby, including the Pro14 and Champions Cup, also now suspended indefinitely, the IRFU is looking to reduce financial strain by enacting pay-deferral measures.

The deferrals apply to all employees in Munster, Ulster, Connacht, and Leinster, and come after the IRFU today reached an agreement with Rugby Players Ireland and its members.

The union says the deferrals, which are “based on an equitable sliding scale which ranges from 10% – 50%,” will be effective from April “and beyond if required, but will remain subject to constant review of the financial circumstances of the IRFU and provinces.”

The42 understands that the union’s biggest earners – players on more lucrative central union contracts – will be those taking the higher percentage deferrals. 

“We are entering uncharted waters as the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold but we remain hopeful that something of this season can be retrieved later in summer,” said IRFU CEO Philip Browne.

“This is important as the whole game, amateur and professional, is financially dependent on the resumption of the professional tournaments and the revenues that they generate.

“With postponement of these tournaments the IRFU and the Provinces are facing some daunting financial challenges around loss of revenue and cash flow and we must cut our costs.”

philip-browne IRFU CEO Philip Browne. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The IRFU added that the situation will remain under constant review but that “this arrangement will allow Irish Rugby the breathing space required in relation to cashflow that can ensure that when this crisis abates, we still have a business that can deliver for all those that play and love rugby.”

Rugby Players Ireland CEO Simon Keogh said professional players recognised the need to work with the union.

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“We recognise the need to work with the IRFU with respect to these payment deferrals in light of the current circumstances,” said Keogh. “All endeavours have been made to contact those affected on an individual basis.

“Our members appreciate that such moves are necessary in order to protect the future of the game in this country. The health and safety of the public is the priority at this time. We will continue to work with the IRFU as this situation develops.” 

Meanwhile, The42 understands that all professional players in Ireland are now on a ‘stand down’ period for the next eight weeks, with the hope being that the provinces can resume collective training on 18 May.

With the provinces having cancelled all group training, players will work with individualised training programmes for the next two months during an extended break from playing due to all professional rugby being suspended.

While there has been no official confirmation yet, The42 understands that as things stand, Ireland’s two-Test tour to Australia in July is set to be cancelled given the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting travel restrictions.

The IRFU’s hope is that players will be able to return to collective training on 18 May for what amounts to a pre-season before the 2019/20 campaign Pro14 and Champions Cup campaigns are finished in July and August.

Given that there are several other unions and stakeholders involved in those competitions, there is no certainty in this regard yet.

ireland-players-dejected Ireland's tour to Australia in July is set to be cancelled. Source: Billy Stickand/INPHO

Even more pertinently, the IRFU has no clarity on whether players will be free to resume collective training on 18 May as the future of the Covid-19 situation remains so unknown.

If these tentative plans do go ahead, with the 2019/20 season completed in July and August, it’s expected that Irish players would subsequently have a short break period before continuing on into the 2020/21 season. 

The simple fact is that Irish players, the provinces, and the IRFU are playing a waiting game for the time being, with all staff members’ pay having been cut in the short-term as Irish rugby faces up to financial reality of this unprecedented situation. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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