Rugby: Player strike ‘would be foolhardy’ says Lord Myners

A Premiership Rugby match ball

A Premiership Rugby match ball - Credit: PA

Lord Myners has warned rugby union players it would be “foolhardy” to feel they need to go on strike after his review prompted clubs to announce a substantial cut to the salary cap from next season.

The unanimous decision by clubs to cut the cap from £6.4million to £5m for next season has led to a row between the Rugby Players’ Association and Premiership clubs.

On Friday, the RPA described it as a “sad day in the history of rugby” after clubs released a joint statement accusing the union of serving to “sow division and create uncertainty” instead of supporting its members.

But Myners, who conducted a review in the wake of Saracens’ salary cap breaches and found the current level to be broadly unsustainable, has urged caution from both sides, warning the sport could face a financial crisis if compromises cannot be made.

“Common sense would say we need to sit down and have constructive, respectful discussions,” Myners told the Guardian.

“It would be foolhardy for the players to feel they’ve been pushed into a situation where they have to strike. If you’re an owner wondering how much longer you want to go on writing annual cheques, nothing’s more likely to tip you over the line than being exposed to industrial action.”

Players across England’s top-flight had taken temporary 25 per cent wage cuts in response to the coronavirus crisis, but some clubs are now aiming to reduce high-earners’ salaries permanently.

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The RPA claimed on Wednesday that players were being put under undue pressure to sign amended contracts before a “manufactured” deadline of June 18 and warned a “significant legal dispute” was inevitable unless genuine and urgent dialogue took place.

Myners warned the current structure of the Premiership Rugby board, in which the chief executive does not have a vote, must be reviewed in the long-term interests of the game.

“Now is not a bad time to have a look at the governance of the Premiership,” he said.

“What is missing from almost every echelon of rugby is the presence of independent voices. We don’t really have one in Premiership Rugby.

“I think it would lead to better decision-making. Somebody has to say: ‘What’s good for the future of this game that we care passionately about?’ That’s the element that’s currently lacking.”