RFU open books to England players to thrash out ground breaking deal

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney (Getty Images)
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney (Getty Images)

The RFU have opened up their accounts to England’s senior players in a bid to finalise radical new contract plans for Red Rose stars.

Chief executive Bill Sweeney has laid the RFU books bare for Team England Rugby Limited, the new commercial body run by the Test players negotiating new international pay structures.

Team England and the RFU have already agreed the new hybrid contracts, where up to 25 players will be paid as much as £160,000 by the union to top up their club deals.

The England players have broken away from the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) to negotiate their commercial rights with the RFU.

A new Professional Game Partnership (PGP) governing all agreements between the RFU and the Premiership league must come into force by the start of next season.

The England players’ pay, including hybrid contracts, falls under that umbrella, leaving continued talks between RFU and Red Rose stars as pivotal to a final sign-off.

Sweeney met with England players Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson on Tuesday, the day before head coach Steve Borthwick’s 36-man squad fly out for the summer tour of Japan and New Zealand.

Red Rose captain Jamie George, one of the key figures in the new Team England body, hailed the RFU for their transparent negotiations and insisted a deal will be struck quickly.

Jamie George has hailed the RFU for their transparent negotiations (Action Images via Reuters)
Jamie George has hailed the RFU for their transparent negotiations (Action Images via Reuters)

“Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson, who are on the Team England player board, were here at Twickenham to meet Bill Sweeney today,” said England captain George.

“We met with Bill and the RFU about a month ago as well, and what I’ve been impressed with is that the RFU were so open and honest, in terms of opening up the books, letting us see everything and proposing how things look going forward.”

England’s players broke away from RPA representation in January, setting up Team England Rugby Limited.

Captain George, Bristol prop Genge, Saracens lock Maro Itoje, wing Watson and Harlequins prop Joe Marler are the directors.

Saracens duo George and Itoje are the first two players to agree hybrid contracts, with the RFU set to pay players a regular wage directly the first time.

More players will be awarded hybrid deals as their club contracts come up for renewal, hence a staggered inception of the new enterprise.

The finer details on those hybrid deals are yet to be finalised however, and negotiations need to be wrapped up quickly.

England boss Borthwick will still be able to select players who do not have hybrid deals, and those players will receive individual match fees.

“The best thing is about the players having control of our contracts and futures is being able to be at the forefront of it and we're really happy with the representation we've had, it's been brilliant so far,” said George.

“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.

“There are a lot of negotiations still going on. We probably had to get our own house in order first, but we're really happy with where we're at.

“Before it just didn't work, the synergy just wasn't there. But the conversations with Bill Sweeney, Conor O’Shea and those guys have been really, really impressive. Hopefully they can continue that way.”