Tuilagi and five other con­tract rebels may seek dam­ages from Leicester

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Char­lie Mor­gan

Manu Tuilagi and four other play­ers who missed Leicester Tigers’ con­tract dead­line on Tues­day have en­gaged lawyers and will ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of claim­ing dam­ages from the club.

Tuilagi, whose Test ca­reer would be thrust into doubt were he to leave, and five oth­ers spent yes­ter­day wait­ing for a let­ter from the Leicester board to in­form them they would be “stood down”.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drea Pinchen last night con­firmed that five play­ers – Greg Bate­man, Kyle East­mond, Noel Reid, Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu – had not agreed new terms. The play­ers are sound­ing out other clubs around the world with a view to or­gan­is­ing a move, with most re­signed to leav­ing the East Mid­lands.

It is un­der­stood that back-rower Jor­dan Tau­fua is also likely to depart.

One se­nior source at Leicester claimed that Tuilagi and has not been en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions, whereas Ge­orge Ford and El­lis Genge – both of whom have agreed to stay with Tigers – were far more ac­tive prior to set­tling for pay cuts of around 25 per cent on ex­tended deals.

French me­dia out­lets have im­me­di­ately claimed that the 29-yearold cen­tre might be a tar­get for am­bi­tious Beziers, who could be one of the clubs able to match his wages of about £500,000.

Tau­fua, al­ready pop­u­lar among sup­port­ers de­spite hav­ing only ar­rived at the be­gin­ning of the 2019-20 sea­son, was also linked with the French club this week.

“The names of Tuilagi and Tau­fua are in­deed cir­cu­lat­ing in the of­fices of cer­tain pres­i­dents in France,” a source con­firmed.

Veainu, the Tonga full-back who was named Rugby Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion play­ers’ player of the year for the 2017-18 Premier­ship sea­son, is thought to be in the final stages of seal­ing a move to Stade Fran­cais.

Leicester play­ers have felt as though the club’s stance on cut-price deals amid the Covid-19 pan­demic, and the Premier­ship’s sub­se­quent salary-cap re­duc­tion, has been overly force­ful.

One source close to the dis­pute sug­gested that, while other Premier­ship clubs – no­tably lo­cal ri­vals Northamp­ton Saints – had seemed co­op­er­a­tive in their ap­proach to bud­get-squeez­ing, Leicester play­ers have been frus­trated by the threat­en­ing na­ture of dis­cus­sions. Se­nior mem­bers of the board, such as ma­jor­ity share­holder Tom Scott, have come in for fierce pri­vate crit­i­cism, even if re­cently ap­pointed Pinchen re­mains a trusted and re­spected fig­ure. “The way the club has acted over could cost them the big­gest player they have ever had in Manu,” a source close to the club said. Tigers re­leased a state­ment from the board yes­ter­day that sug­gested the pan­demic had im­pacted Leicester, cur­rently en­gaged in a process of re­dun­dan­cies, “more than most” be­cause of the size of their Welford Road sta­dium and fan base. They had lost £5mil­lion from be­ing un­able to stage matches or other events. “Dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions have had to be made, in­clud­ing salary re­duc­tions, re­duced work­ing time and us­ing the fur­lough scheme, as well as a re­dun­dancy process which con­cludes to­day and could po­ten­tially lead to the de­par­ture of up to 31 staff,” the state­ment read.

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