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HomeSportsRFU and Bill Sweeney considering "nuclear" central contracts.

RFU and Bill Sweeney considering “nuclear” central contracts.

The Rugby Football Union is prepared to investigate the “nuclear” option of establishing central contracts for England players as powerbrokers seek a solution to the current financial crisis, with chief executive Bill Sweeney stating that “everything is on the table.”

The predicament of Worcester and Wasps has expedited the RFU and Premiership clubs’ efforts to restructure the domestic game, with Sweeney admitting that the current structure “is not optimal for club or nation, and we’re all sick of it.”

Central contracts have been a recurring topic since the union failed to implement them when the game turned professional, but with player wages rising, RFU and Premiership Rugby Limited officials have acknowledged that the financial crisis has arrived in part because the clubs’ expenses far exceed their revenues.

Rfu and bill sweeney considering "nuclear" central contracts.
Rfu and bill sweeney considering "nuclear" central contracts.

Consequently, the concept of central contracts has resurfaced, as many England stars are effectively given two wages – approximately £23,000 each Test in addition to hefty club contracts.

Rob Baxter, director of rugby at Exeter, stated recently that the approach does not work and makes developing and retaining England internationals difficult at a time when almost fifty percent of Test players miss their club’s Premiership games due to wage limit restrictions.

Sam Simmonds has already committed to a move abroad for the upcoming season, and several other internationals are anticipated to follow suit, even though the RFU’s current regulations render them ineligible to play for England.

Sweeney favors proposals to introduce a 10-team Premiership for the 2024-25 season, when the next Professional Game Agreement comes into effect, to ensure fewer Premiership matches clash with the international windows, while central contracts would reduce club costs and give the RFU far better access to and control over its players – something Eddie Jones has consistently desired during his tenure.

Rfu and bill sweeney considering "nuclear" central contracts.

Sweeney stated, “I believe everything is on the table for discussion.” “There are certain terms that have the same effect as nuclear buttons, and ‘central contracts’ is one of them.

Regarding the higher salaries for elite players, the time they spend playing for England, and the time they spend playing for their club, is there a different way we can work with PRL and work with the clubs to mitigate the expense they face on that side of things and have a better structure so we achieve greater financial stability for the clubs and a higher quality of players entering the national team? I would suggest that all of these ideas are viable in the light of recent events.

“I dislike using this expression, but this has offered a chance to examine everything that has been floating around for quite some time. Now is the moment to address this issue.

Since the game became professional, I don’t believe there has ever been a greater opportunity for us to come to the table in an engaged, open, and transparent manner.

Sweeney accepted that the RFU rule stating that players based outside of England are ineligible for the national squad would be examined as part of broader conversations, with exemptions already made for Worcester players as well as those at Wasps, should the club enter administration on Monday. “I’ve heard that several players intend to or are considering heading abroad after the World Cup, so we’ll have to address that.”

Sweeney is also a proponent of introducing an independent audit of clubs’ finances, as is the case in France, and he acknowledged the need for the RFU to reconsider its fit and proper person’s test for owners after Worcester’s former director of rugby, Steve Diamond, claimed the union stood by and watched the demise of the Warriors. This would fall under regulatory oversight and governance reform, he explained.

“We currently have fitness for duty test. Is it fit and acceptable? There is likely a question relating to Worcester and how they passed that test in the past that needs to be addressed.

In a statement released on Sunday, London Irish described rumors of a prospective merger between the club and Wasps as “total and utter speculation.”


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