Hope­fully oth­ers will fol­low the lead of gen­er­ous Eng­land play­ers

The Rugby Paper - - News - JEFF PROBYN

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.

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Bank­rupt: The Samoan squad need a match fee

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