Players seeking reward for World Cup

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The Independent Online

England's World Cup-winning players want a pay rise and the Rugby Football Union is happy to back their demands - especially as they will not be the only ones footing the bill.

At the moment the players are being paid according to a deal that was struck in 2001, when a World Cup win did not play a part in the equation.

However, as Damian Hopley, the chief executive of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, pointed out last night: "In the last 24 months English rugby has spawned global superstars. And since the World Cup win everything has gone berserk. The England players are household names so their commercial value has gone through the roof.''

Butmatch fees and Intellectual Property Rights do not reflect that exponential upturn in England's commercial worth, according to Hopley. With players in demand for commercial appearances and endorsements, from which the game benefits, he feels that fees should reflect that demand - and the RFU agrees.

Francis Baron, the chief executive of the RFU, said yesterday: "There are two issues. The first is IPR, and we are prepared to make amendments to the existing agreement because it is clear the value of those rights has gone up. The second issue is match fees, and concerns have been expressed about the level of these payments, and I think an improved payment ought to be made to the players, but ... under the Long Form Agreement of July 2001, which runs until 2009, it is Premier Rugby Limited who are responsible for all payments to players.

"Although the RFU does make a substantial annual payment to the PRL - £5m in a World Cup year, £4m the rest of the time - in addition there is a further £3.5m which has been handed to PRL as their share of the 'upside', the increase in sponsorship and commercial activities."

Match fees have just risen to £6,500 (from £6,000), a rise agreed long before the World Cup, and the players feel there is a case for a further increase - a figure of £7,000 was floated yesterday. Last night PRL confirmed they would be making representations to the RFU on behalf of the players to try to secure an increase in the IPR element incorporated in their matches.

The RFU, while making no offical complaint about the pre-match activities which annoyed Clive Woodward at Murrayfield on Saturday, will seek a formal pre-match protocol that everyone should follow.

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