Radical change is coming to all levels of rugby after the current break

Radical change is coming to all levels of rugby after the current break
Peter O'Mahony of Ireland and George Kruis of England contest a line-out during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

IT’S only in times of a genuine crisis that you find out the true moral fibre of individuals.

In one corner you’ve the medics, doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters and everyone involved in ensuring hospitals are working at full capacity putting their own health at risk to cater for those stricken by the coronavirus. 

Then in the opposite corner you’ve multi-millionaire soccer players humming and hawing about giving up one cent of their fortunes.

Little wonder there’s been a huge backlash in England in particular, especially as every other professional sport, it seems, has taken a hit, just like Joe public.

The GAA, IRFU and the much-troubled FAI have all imposed pay cuts or salary deferrals, ranging from 10 right up to 50 percent.

Croke Park are bracing themselves for a massive drop in revenue if there’s no championship this summer while their rugby counterparts are feeling the pinch already.

The loss of a home game in the lucrative Six Nations and the cancellation of the European Cup and Pro 14 will be reflected in their annual set of accounts later in the year.

Rugby was late coming to the professional ranks compared to soccer and the sport is sure to undergo radical changes as the lockdown hits home.

Across the world, unions and clubs alike are feeling the pinch with the loss of much-needed revenue from home games.

USA Rugby has filed for bankruptcy-the Major League Rugby season one casualty-with implications for Cork players like Johnny Poland and Tomás Quinlan who have returned to Leeside.

Cork rugby player Tomas Quinlan in action for Cork Con. 
Cork rugby player Tomas Quinlan in action for Cork Con. 

The sport in Australia was already under pressure and now this pandemic couldn’t have left them more exposed.

And neighbours New Zealand aren’t immune either with 40 percent cuts for all staff until the end of June.

In England, premiership clubs have reduced the payroll bill by 25 percent across the board and that may only be the start.

The likely outcome is player and coaches’ salaries will drop and squads will be reduced in size with an emphasis on academy players taking over from fewer pros.

Question marks hang over the careers of out of contract players trying to move to other clubs, who are also under savage financial pressure.

Former UCC rugby player John Poland has returned from the US. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Former UCC rugby player John Poland has returned from the US. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Some clubs, especially those in France, are vulnerable to businesses or sponsors going into receivership or changing direction, moving away from rugby altogether.

Income doesn’t match elevated salaries for the leading players and coaches. Those on contracts for next season and beyond are fortunate.

The sugar-daddy syndrome weighs heavily on rugby, notably in the French and English games.

I recall meeting one on an early visit to the south of France for a Munster Heineken Cup game years ago. I think it was against Castres.

This mountain of a man, big cigar dangling from one side of his mouth and a glass of red wine in hand, joined visiting Irish ‘hacks’ before the game. He was a pleasant individual with size 14 hands and introduced himself as club president in welcoming us to ‘his’ club. 

Castres couldn’t exist without this type of benefactor, the guy who balances the books at the end of every season. Mind you it doesn’t stop him from appointing coaches, signing players and even attempting to select teams.

Amateur clubs in Ireland are feeling the strain and the offer of a maximum of €5,000 assistance by the IRFU is unlikely to change matters.

The Union’s €500,000 is available to all clubs and not just those 50 in the energia All-Ireland League.

While it may appear a sizeable cake, by the time everyone has a nibble there won’t be much, if any, of it left.

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