(Reuters) - The English Premiership’s decision to reduce the salary cap for will lead to a legal dispute unless club owners hold meaningful dialogue with players, the Rugby Players Association chairman said on Wednesday.
Mark Lambert added in a statement here that clubs had shown "an absolute disregard for the players and the values of the game" since the onset of the financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premiership Rugby later confirmed that clubs voted this week to temporarily reduce the league’s salary cap from 2021-22 until 2023-2024 and that the ceiling for senior players is set at five million pounds ($6.38 million) — down from 6.4 million pounds.
It clarified in its statement here that the vote did not refer to any individual salary or contract.
Plans to impose a blanket 25% salary cut on players had previously been rejected by the players’ union.
“This latest situation could have been entirely avoided with a collaborative and transparent approach,” Lambert said. “We now find ourselves heading towards a significant legal dispute.”
“Players are the lifeblood of the game and should be treated with respect.”
Lambert added that most of the players had already accepted temporary 25% wage cuts since March and April.
Leicester Tigers prop Greg Bateman, an influential figure in the new breakaway Rugby Players Epoch union, said the decision to lower the salary cap could result in English rugby’s popularity declining in the long term.
“Your middle-of-the-road squad player isn’t going to be on six figures... they will have financially planned around their salary, so to reduce that by 25% feels immoral. The conclusion is that players, nobody else, get shafted,” Bateman told The Daily Telegraph.
“That is not going to inspire more people into the game. The question should be about how we make the pot bigger, not how do we cut this out from the bottom,” he added.
($1 = 0.7843 pounds)
Reporting by Arvind Sriram and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond