Rugby Union: RFU gives ground over allowances: Hardship money for England players

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A CENTURY after rugby league's breakaway from amateur rugby union, Twickenham has finally conceded the principle of broken-time payments by agreeing - after virtually every other leading rugby country - that England players can be paid hardship allowances when on international duty.

This is in effect the very issue that caused the northern clubs to declare UDI in 1895, and even now it has taken the Rugby Football Union three years to come round to this way of thinking since the International Board granted permission.

England players will now qualify for pounds 40 a day provided they can prove hardship, or at least deduction of earnings by employers.

These payments are in addition to the pounds 22 daily communication allowance payable on tours, the reluctant RFU falling into line because the other home unions have agreed rather than doing so because it necessarily thought it a good idea in itself.

The RFU president, Denis Easby, evidently hopes to use the payment of the allowance in his union's rearguard action against professionalism. At yesterday's launch of the 1994-95 Rothmans Rugby Union Yearbook, Easby noted that hardship and communication payments were, between them, the equivalent of pounds 22,500 a year.

However disingenuous, Easby believes this, together with legitimate expenses, is quite sufficient for players who now have off-the-field opportunities to satisfy their craving for money and who, he claims, in any case have no desire to become fully-fledged professionals.

'If we went down that road, a contract of employment would inevitably follow. The number of games and type of matches and training requirements, the kit to be worn, the standard of behaviour - all this would be set out. There would be provision for the termination of contract in the event of breach. Ask the players if that is what they want and their answer would be an unequivocal no.'

Notwithstanding the Easby way out, international players still want to maximise their earnings. Five with higher earning capacity than most are the Rothmans Yearbook's players of the year: Ben Clarke (England), Phil Davies (Wales), Tim Horan (Australia), Nigel Redman (England) and Philippe Sella (France).