RFU has ‘opened up books’ to senior England players, reveals Jamie George

Jamie George
Jamie George is optimistic terms of new contracts will be agreed soon - PA/Andrew Matthews

Jamie George is hopeful that a delegation of senior players will thrash out the terms of new contracts for the men’s England team after transparent pay talks with the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Back in January, it was announced that the Rugby Players Association (RPA) would be ending a 20-year period as England’s commercial representatives when the current Elite Player Squad (EPS) agreement ends this month.

George, the England captain, was one of five players that became directors of Team England Rugby Ltd, a company that took over that responsibility and has been discussing the new enhanced EPS deals – widely dubbed as hybrid contracts – as well as other issues such as welfare measures.

Anthony Watson, Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Maro Itoje are other figureheads of Team England Rugby Ltd. Less than 24 hours before George and Steve Borthwick’s squad were due to fly out to Tokyo, Genge and Watson were at Twickenham for talks with Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive. George himself was full of praise for the governing body.

‘Right people in right places’

“We had to get our own house in order first, but we’re really happy with where we’re at and negotiations with the RFU are ongoing,” said the Saracens hooker. “Two of the players were here today to have a meeting with the RFU in Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson, who are on our player board. They had a meeting with Bill Sweeney today.

“We were training so I don’t know exactly how that went, but what I’ve been impressed with in terms of the RFU, we met with them around a month ago as our entire board and our representation, is how they’ve been so open and honest in terms of opening up the books, letting us see everything, proposing how things look going forward.

“That’s what the best thing is about the players having control of our contracts and futures, is being able to be at the forefront of it. We’re really happy with the representation we’ve had, it’s been brilliant so far. There are obviously going to be challenges in the negotiations, but we have the right people in the right places, represented by the right people.”

England players currently earn upwards of £20,000 per Test, made up of a match fee and image rights, with commercial appearances at home games boosting that figure by up to £3,000. Next season, though, will see the introduction of around 25 enhanced EPS contracts. As Telegraph Sport reported in April, recipients of these deals can expect to bring in a lump sum of around £160,000. George and Itoje are thought to have agreed to them in principle.

‘It’s not us versus them’

Powerbrokers believe that finer details of the new professional game partnership (PGP) will be finalised over the coming weeks. A source indicated that the EPS agreement could take slightly longer, with England players probably needing to wait until after they return from New Zealand to be absolutely sure of the specifics.

Even so, George said Team England Rugby Ltd has made progress with the help of others overseeing financial particulars.

“This is a collaboration. It’s not us versus them [the RFU],” said George, also a co-founder of The Carter and George Practice, a physiotherapy clinic that has developed into a multi-medical facility.

“That was exactly why we wanted to do what we have done. Before, it just didn’t work, the synergy just wasn’t there. We want to go in and say, ‘Let’s have this conversation’. We understand we are incredibly lucky to do what we do, but also we understand that this is a business and the RFU got hit hard by Covid and all that kind of thing.

“Those conversations are ongoing. They [are] being open and honest about that by showing us the books. The finances go way over my head but we’ve got other people who are able to understand it. I run a business on the side and I’ve always been, ‘Let’s not play any games, let’s get down to the point; what’s realistic here?’

“That’s exactly how the conversations have gone and the conversations with Bill Sweeney, Conor O’Shea and those guys have been really, really impressive. Hopefully they can continue that way.”

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