Bidding farewell to amateurism, tongues firmly in cheeks

The amateur ethic has never exercised the hold over the southern hemisphere that it has on the countries of the Old World

The words of welcome for rugby union's new professionalism that issued from various parts of the southern hemisphere yesterday were undoubtedly sincere but also uttered with tongues firmly in cheeks - because for New Zealand, Australia and South Africa this supposedly momentous change has merely regularised what had already been the case.

Amateurism, an ethic that owed most to the sporting Corinthianism of the 19th century and nothing to present-day commercial realities, has never exercised the hold on the southern hemisphere that it has had over the rugby-playing countries of the Old World.

In part this is because in South Africa and New Zealand rugby is the sporting king - unlike England's football fixation - so rugby's leading practitioners are both lionised and are highly marketable commodities. Apart, perhaps, from Will Carling, the England captain, there is not a single English player whose profile would approach those of even humdrum South African and New Zealand internationals.

In Australia, the situation is different because rugby union trails a distant third behind Australian Rules football and rugby league, but here the difference with the British Isles is in attitude. In order to compete, and in order to prevent its players being bought up by league, the Australian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) has for years had no qualms about securing for its players the very best financial packages possible, short of straight paying-for-playing.

In England, the Rugby Football Union - which has often been caricatured as a last repository of Victorian values - has, by comparison, been dragged kicking and screaming into a disagreeable modern world. Amateur rugby players have since 1980 been permitted to make money out of off-the-field activities (promotional work and the like) but even at a time of unprecedented playing success, the England team have until the past year or so had to make their own arrangements without support and with scarcely any assistance from their union.

Contrast this with Australia, where in 1993 the ARFU staged a gala dinner in Sydney, with the profit of pounds 212,000 going straight to its players. Still earlier, in 1992, the French were surprised to find that there were no post-match dinners on their tour of South Africa - until they discovered the reason: the South African team were being paid pounds 2,800 to spend an hour in a restaurant at a sponsor's behest.

This month, the South African RFU bound its internationals to contracts worth an annual pounds 100,000 a man, a sum which with provincial additions could be more like pounds 150,000. The All Blacks in New Zealand have signed for up to pounds 130,000 a man, the Australian Wallabies around pounds 125,000.

These deals were concluded before - one might say without reference to - the historic meeting in Paris at the weekend. No wonder Richie Guy, chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, was able yesterday to say: "It's a major step in the formal sense that the International Board has accepted that the word amateur will be taken out of the regulations. But in a practical sense, I don't think it will make a great deal of difference."


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon


Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London