Hopefully others will follow the lead of generous England players
The headline stating that the RFU are expected to make a goodwill gesture in the region of £75,000 to the Samoan Rugby Union doesn’t tell the whole story. It is rumoured the players might embarrass the RFU by offering part of their match fee of around £23,000 each (34 times what the Samoans players receive), and could dwarf the supposed generosity of the RFU who may earn as much as £10 million from the match.
I have to say, if true, I applaud the players for following the example of the England soccer team who donate all their international match fees to charity.
Admittedly, the footballers earn a lot more from their clubs and have smaller international match fees than their rugby counterparts but, even so, it would be a generous statement so far not echoed by any of Samoa’s other opposition this autumn.
I wouldn’t expect any of the rugby boys will be giving up the whole of their fees, but given the Samoa Rugby Union’s current plight, anything would be a major help.
Currently bankrupt and unable to pay the £650 match fee due to the players, Samoa can only fulfil the tour fixtures because of an old agreement that means the host nations pick up the costs of hotels etc.
Even if the England squad offer just £2,000 each, it would enable their opponents to collect a match fee and still leave enough over for the Samoan Union to pay off some of their debts.
The problems of Samoan Rugby Union and the rest of the South Sea Islands goes a lot deeper than just money.
With small islands, a small population and small stadiums of around 10,000 capacity, they couldn’t make a profit even if they had the best teams in the world touring every year. Add a level of corruption by the administrators and you can see why they have problems.
The only way for countries like Samoa to blossom and grow, which if rugby is to continue to expand as a global sport must happen, is for World Rugby to do something radical but simple.
A tour schedule that sees Tier 1 nations touring Tier 2 countries but with a negotiated percentage of around ten per cent of the gate of a return fixture the following year, would provide both the rugby exposure and money that Tier 2 teams need to grow the sport.
How to deal with the misuse of funds is quite a difficult issue, but the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare trust set up in the UK by Dan Leo, a former Samoan player, is a good first step in the right direction.
I“Samoa can only fulfil the fixtures because of an agreement that means the host nations pick up the costs of hotels etc”
t was great to see the headline, Barbarians prove they are worthy of the international stage and run the mighty All Blacks pretty close – but again the headline belies the facts.
As an ex-Barbarian, both as a player and committee member, I know how extremely hard they have worked to survive in an era where many forces conspired against them.
Ultimately, that survival was down to the man who is the heart and soul of the Barbarians, Micky Steele-Bodger. Micky made the tough decision to move the Barbarians from their totally amateur ethos to engage with agents, paying a fee for player release and a small match fee.
Unfortunately, the money involved wasn’t enough to tempt the Premiership clubs who wanted substantially more than the Barbarians could afford, and so refused to release players.
That has resulted in some very mixed results for the Barbarians from some very mixed teams usually without an English playing presence, which is a big loss to both the English clubs and their players in terms of the ‘Barbarian experience’ and also the great chance to play rugby just for fun.
When I played, Barbarian match preparations involved being introduced to the other team members, some basic training and a lot of socialising, usually with Micky to the fore even though he was well into his 70s by then.
Hopefully, the clubs will one day appreciate the benefits to their players playing in an international Lions-type environment but without the pressures, accept it would make them better players and agree to release them for these special games. I was disappointed to read John Allanson’s letter in last week’s paper, as it would seem to indicate that my article had, more or less, suggested that funding from the RFU to grassroots clubs was a bad thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth as anyone who read the article rather than just the headlines would know.
I have always made it clear that I do not think the RFU fund grassroots nearly enough, relying instead on the generosity of the thousands of volunteers who give their time and money to keep grassroots clubs operating.
As for his comments re money to improve facilities, clubs would be well advised to apply to the Sports Council for match-funding rather than the RFU when seeking to improve or add changing rooms to make their clubs more inclusive.
Fortunately, this paper has a great online archive where you can read back copies and I am sure that if Mr Allanson takes another look, he would change his opinion as to the thrust of my comments.
Bankrupt: The Samoan squad need a match fee