Rugby Union: England cashing in

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The Independent Online
THE time for giving up the day job has yet to arrive, but you can just picture the scene. 'Tell me son, what do you want to be when you grow up?' 'A rugby union player, dad.' The way things are going, that answer may not be too surprising in the future, not if deals like the one announced yesterday are anything to go by, writes Barrie Fairall.

True-blue amateurs may blanch, but the England squad are to receive pounds 400,000 over a four-year period for marketing and promotional work. Courage, already pumping pounds 7m into the leagues but having shied away from involvement in Bath's plans for a new stand at the Recreation Ground, is the latest company to help line top players' pockets.

Such an amount is hardly small beer and there is more in the pipeline. Karen Levisconte, speaking for Parallel Media, which handles sponsorship on behalf of the squad, said: 'We're currently negotiating with other sponsors. The squad are delighted.' You bet they are.

Last season, the manufacturers of an isotonic sports drink and a cider producer came up with two-year deals for undisclosed sums, leaving Courage to put a figure to its own involvement, and yesterday Will Carling, England's captain, said: 'The players welcome the new support from Courage, who are already good friends of ours.'

He might have added: 'Cheers]' With the money split equally, pounds 15,000 could go to any player involved with England over the four years. As for the Rugby Football Union, the aptly-named president, Ian Beer, said: 'We are happy that there will be no conflict with International Board regulations relating to amateurism.' Whichever way you look at it, though, these are times when it pays to be an amateur.