More than 80 player agents have been licensed to work in English rugby union. They are required to meet criteria including CRB clearance and £500,000 of personal liability insurance before being registered by a review board comprising the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Players' Association.
They must also attend meetings such as last Tuesday's at Twickenham which dealt with the 2011 World Cup organisers' draft regulations concerning commercial and social networking activity. Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWC) and the individual country's unions rigorously protect their commercial partners to the exclusion of contrary deals, and England players are bound by their elite player squad contract with the RFU, who, in turn, sign a participation agreement with RWC. The RFU say players will be permitted to write newspaper and online columns – 17 of the 30-man squad did so during the 2007 World Cup – subject to the content being vetted, and to use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking media. However, the England players are under orders not to post injury and selection news, or adverse comments on competitions, team-mates, referees and opponents. That leaves the usual fare of where they're going for dinner and who's just bought a new dog.
Nelson sees red over yellows
The Fylde coach, Mark Nelson, is looking forward to Jason Robinson's reappearance for the National Two North club against Hull next Saturday. The 2003 World Cup-winner missed last week's 32-30 defeat by Leicester Lions with a hamstring injury and sat out yesterday's trip to Nuneaton because he only appears in home matches. Meanwhile Nelson, formerly with Sale Sharks and a leading light in Lancashire county rugby, admits to "raising an eyebrow" at the number of yellow cards in the National Leagues, and the money accruing from clubs to the RFU's disciplinary department. "I estimated that in the three national leagues last season the fines for yellow and red cards, and the administration of them, came to £45,000, and I think that's conservative," said Nelson. "The yellow-card fine has gone up from £45 to £50 this season. I work closely with referees and the RFU disciplinary people but I'm concerned that where foul play used to be a choice between a red card or a stiff dressing-down, yellows are being dished out like confetti. It could be an easy cop-out, and it's a lot of money going out of the clubs." The first five weeks of the season in National Two North alone have produced more than £3,000 worth of 62 yellow cards and four reds in 40 matches.
Sharks plot sale of the century
Sale are minding their own business with new twice-a-season "Charity Signing Sessions". Those attending may bring along a maximum of two items per person. Sounds fine. The full squad rather than just one player must sign each item. OK, fair enough. All items will receive "a letter of authenticity which will add value to the signed shirt/ball". Splendid. "Only Sale Sharks shirts or balls purchased on the day will be accepted for signature." Ah. Perhaps the sign for these "Charity Signing Sessions" should include the rider "No Freeloaders".