Cash-strapped game in danger of losing its Voyce

Former England winger does not want to retire but accepts he may have to because, much to his surprise, no one wants him

The new money set to reach Aviva Premiership clubs from their improved television deal with BT from next season will not make much difference to Tom Voyce.

The former England wing is on rugby's equivalent of the dole: unable to find a job since his contract at Gloucester ended in the summer, despite being fully fit, not long into his 30s and with the experience of winning eight club trophies and nine caps for his country.

Voyce's story is not strictly of the hard-luck variety but is a sign of the times. ''If my career has to stop, I've achieved more than most people in it,'' says the 31-year-old from Cornwall now living in London and looking for work. ''But it's the way it would finish that is frustrating. I grew up thinking 'why would I ever want to retire?' I now know it may be because there isn't a contract on the table for you anywhere.''

In looking for the reasons why a sport that has just trumpeted a 50 per cent hike in TV fees has no room for him, Voyce quotes several factors, including ageism and the disappearance of club loyalty, an unequal distribution of money between wealthy teams and the rest, and the influx of players from abroad.

It was back in January, towards the end of a three-year contract with Gloucester, after successful stints with Bath and Wasps, that Voyce got wind from the then head coach Bryan Redpath that ''budgets had changed''. Voyce's contract was not renewed.

His hunt for a new club began, and the obvious question is: what would he accept? Voyce prefers not to state his last salary at Gloucester, though a guestimate would be around £150,000. ''I've got two or three years left in my career,'' he says, ''and I am willing to look at a lower salary. That said, I don't want to tread water. I love the game but it is about getting bashed about every day. There's no point picking up a 45k salary if it meant never playing, or not being challenged. I would prefer to go straight for a different job and build a new salary.

''The point is I have not even had an offer. I find it bizarre. I'm there with a wealth of experience but I'm not going to be able to give back, to give a youngster the information that I got given.''

Voyce reveals that the majority of Premiership clubs – including, he believes, Gloucester – are not spending up to the salary cap, which is a maximum £4.5million, plus the wages of one high-earning "excluded" player. ''Most clubs are spending instead on their PR and marketing,'' Voyce says. ''They are putting it into the back office just to make sure they survive as a club because they're not getting the bums on seats. Revenue is tight.'' And he is in the worst position as a wing. ''The top four or five teams – the Leicesters, Saracens, Northamptons, Harlequins – can afford to look for experience in every position,'' he says. ''The others are focusing on the spine of the team: the forward pack and maybe if they're lucky the nine, 10, 15.'' Wing is seen as a position to be filled by youngsters from the academies, or overseas recruits. Going full-time in 2000, Voyce earned £40,000, whereas he says today's academy players may receive £80,000-£90,000 ''without having achieved anything. Academy players cost time and money and clubs are chucking money at them because they are scared of losing them.''

Voyce has faced a frustrating time searching for new employers. Brive and Dax in France backed out of possible deals when one was relegated and the other not promoted. London Welsh had discussions with him before spending what they had on two French props and waiting on other forwards becoming available from South Africa.

''I believe we have a huge talent pool in England, amazing players, sometimes beating even what New Zealand have,'' says Voyce. ''But some southern hemisphere players coming here are not as good as what we have. [England international] Luke Narraway, for me, was one of the best No8s I've played with, but we lost him to France. The talent here should be looked at first before going abroad. You do get one-offs like [Harlequins' All Black fly-half] Nick Evans who come in, stick at it, and do help the Premiership. Some of them, you think, 'is it necessary?'

''I felt I produced and gave a lot in my three years at Gloucester, but the loyalty card has gone out of the game. It's a business now, and people make business decisions.''

Voyce has checked the statistics. He has the most Premiership appearances as a back (217), is fourth on the all-time try-scoring list and has a ''minimal" injury record: the longest spell inactive was three months with a knee injury in early 2008. He is visiting the gym most days and applauds Warren Gatland, once his coach at Wasps, for saying that Jonny Wilkinson is not ''too old'' for the Lions at 33, but says this is a minority view. ''Rugby is very ageist," says Voyce. ''I am seeing guys retiring when they still have lots to offer. And we're more ageist towards backs than forwards.''

The Rugby Players' Association say 132 senior and academy players from the Premiership were out of contract at the end of last season and 62 are still looking for a club.

''I am not being arrogant,'' says Voyce, ''but I think I am the first high-profile Premiership player that's going to be without a club. So the game is changing.''

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
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?