Scot admits to cash payments from French

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The Independent Online
The International Rugby Board is in peril of having nothing any longer worth talking about when it discusses its amateur regulations next month. Another brick was kicked out of the wall yesterday when a Scot who has been playing at a high level in France for eight years blithely admitted that he was paid to do so.

Soon the entire edifice may come falling down. Kevin Campbell, 32, a former Hawick flanker whose brother Alister was a member of Scotland's 1984 Grand Slam pack, has no problems with being called a professional, says he needs the money and is more worried by the taxman than anyone at the French federation.

Campbell's candour comes on top of revelations about payments including win bonuses made by Toulouse, France's champion club, to be broadcast in For Love and Money? - a BBC Scotland documentary on Thursday - and the Australian RU's decision to tie the Wallabies to contracts worth up to £40,000 a year each.

The amateur regulations may be up for review but, whatever they may say or mean either before or after that meeting, they have lost all credibility as they are being flagrantly ignored around the world. As Campbell's judiciously mixed metaphor put it: "It's time to lift the lid and come clean."

Having had six years with Nice, where his mop of long, curly hair resembled that of his friend and team-mate Jean-Franois Tordo, the recent captain of France, Campbell has latterly played for Mandelieu la Napoule near Cannes, a middle-ranking club in the 96-club French First Division where, like Tordo, he has converted to hooker.

"I receive £800 a month to play in the First Division after negotiating a private deal with the club president at the start of the season like everyone else in the first-team squad," Campbell said. "The top wage is £1,000 a month. I am presently unemployed but like every other First Division rugby player I pay social-security tax after I reach £6,600.

"Clubs in France are financed by the town, the region and the sponsors and I believe Mandelieu's budget is around £500,000, compared with the £1.3m a really big club like Toulouse or Toulon have to spend annually."

In the BBC Scotland programme the Toulouse president, Ren Bouscatel, argues that a player is an amateur as long as most of his income derives from his job. But as Campbell, an accountant by training, is out of work he freely concedes that it is only through rugby that he makes ends meet.

"In France you give up half your life to play rugby," he said. "I'm away from my wife and two daughters for two weekends a month and train three or four times a week. It's taken for granted here that I am a professional and I can't speak of the game as a pastime. Frankly, I need the money I earn from rugby and I can't afford to get injured.

"I know a recent French captain who is currently on £2,500 a month. As far back as 1987 [when Toulon were champions] the bonus per player for winning the club championship was £2,500. It's a different world in France compared with when I played my first game for Hawick as a 17-year-old in Aberdeen and the players were given a £5 note to fund a night out for the whole team with strict instructions not to tell anybody where the money had come from.

"I know I am cutting myself off from playing again in Scotland but I'm beginning to think of myself as French anyway and I believe the whole game will be open in a year. Players in France are afraid of the taxman but not the rugby authorities. Everybody is so open about the money and I'm not prepared to lie. To us it's obvious that in England, Wales and even Ireland players are being paid."

The Toulouse hooker, Patrick Soula, tells the BBC that the average Toulousain receives £625 a month plus £125 for each win. "I don't think we're the best paid but all the clubs in the First Division and even below receive benefits," Soula says.

Win bonuses excepted, both Soula's and Campbell's cases are broadly similar to that of the England full-back, Mike Catt, whose admission that he was paid £200 a week by Eastern Province conveniently turned out, after a Rugby Football Union enquiry, to be an admission that he had received fixed-rate expenses.

These do not fall within IRB regulations and, so the RFU has been assured, have been discontinued throughout South Africa after IRB intervention. Meanwhile the Scottish RU chief executive, Bill Hogg, insisted yesterday that the French federation carry out an investigation into Campbell's claims.

"I am astonished by this," Hogg said. "We will have to raise it with the French authorities. If it has been found and proved that they do have players who should be professionalised - i.e. have been paid for playing - they have to take appropriate action."

Hogg's accompanying assertion that previous stories of this nature had been unproven was immediately discredited by the plain fact of Campbell's confession. "He could not come back and join a Scottish club but he is not under our jurisdiction at the moment," Hogg said, adding that if the French federation refused to take action it would have to be banned.

Even so, Parc des Princes ticket-holders should not worry: Saturday's France-Scotland match is confidently expected to go ahead as planned.

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