Salary cap review chief warns against English rugby strike


London (AFP)

The man behind the review of the Premiership's salary cap has warned English rugby union about being dragged into a players' strike.

Paul Myners' report, commissioned after the Saracens' scandal that will see the reigning champions relegated, prompted a unanimous announcement this week by the clubs to cut the cap from £6.4 million ($8 million) to £5 million for the 2020/21 campaign.

This has sparked a furious row between the clubs and the Rugby Players' Association (PRA).

The RPA warned of a "significant legal dispute unless meaningful and genuine dialogue takes place urgently".

That prompted the clubs to accuse the RPA on Friday of attempting to "sow division and create uncertainty".

But Myners, a former British government finance minister, said current spending on players' wages was unsustainable and urged both sides to pull back from the brink of a full scale dispute.

"Common sense would say we need to sit down and have constructive, respectful discussions," Myners told the Guardian.

"It would be foolhardy for the players to feel they've been pushed into a situation where they have to strike.

"If you're an owner wondering how much longer you want to go on writing annual cheques, nothing's more likely to tip you over the line than being exposed to industrial action."

Many players in England's top flight had taken temporary 25 per cent wage cuts in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but some clubs are now aiming to reduce salaries permanently.

Meanwhile Myners suggested the current structure of the Premiership Rugby board, in which the chief executive does not have a vote, needed to be reviewed.

"Now is not a bad time to have a look at the governance of the Premiership," he said.

"What is missing from almost every echelon of rugby is the presence of independent voices. We don't really have one in Premiership Rugby.

"I think it would lead to better decision-making. Somebody has to say: 'What's good for the future of this game that we care passionately about?' That's the element that's currently lacking."