11 June 2024

RFU opens books to Team England Rugby as player contract talks reach key stage

11 June 2024

The Rugby Football Union has opened up its books to Team England Rugby Ltd as talks over future player contracts reach a key stage.

England captain Jamie George heads the body set up to negotiate commercial agreements with Twickenham after splitting with the Rugby Players’ Association in January.

It was decided by the players that they should have greater independence in talks with the RFU ahead of the introduction of the ‘hybrid’ contracts that will form part of the new elite player squad contracts.

England stars currently receive a match fee of around £20,000 but up to 25 of them are instead to be paid in the region of £160,000 per year under the terms of the hybrid deals.

Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson, two members of the Team England board that is completed by George, Maro Itoje and Joe Marler, met with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney on Tuesday.

“There are a lot of negotiations going on at the minute. We had to get our own house in order first, but we’re really happy with where we’re at,” George said.

“Our entire board met with the RFU around a month ago and they were so open and honest in terms of opening up the books, letting us see everything, proposing how things look going forward.

“This is a collaboration. It’s not us versus them (the RFU). That was exactly why we wanted to do what we have done. Before it just didn’t work, the synergy just wasn’t there.

“We want to go in and say ‘let’s have this conversation’. We understand we are incredibly lucky to do what we do, but also we understand that this is a business and the RFU got hit hard by Covid.

“The finances go way over my head, but we’ve got other people who are able to understand it.

“I run a business on the side and I’ve always been ‘let’s not play any games, let’s get down to the point – what’s realistic here?’ That’s exactly how the conversations have gone.

“It’s about the players having control of our contracts and futures, being at the forefront of it and we’re really happy with the representation we’ve had.

“It’s been brilliant so far. There are obviously going to be challenges in the negotiations, but we have the right people in the right places, represented by the right people.”

The player contracts will form part of the new Professional Game Agreement that will run for eight years from July 1 and provides the framework for the relationship between English rugby’s governing body and its top tier clubs.

The hybrid contracts are design to give England head coach Steve Borthwick more control over his players as well as influence red rose internationals to stay in the Premiership rather than head to France.

George leads England on their summer tour to Japan and New Zealand with the squad scheduled to depart for Tokyo on Wednesday.

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