RFL explains suspension of '£15k minimum wage' for players after backlash from stars
The RFL has moved to defuse a row over the decision to scrap the £15,000 minimum wage following some stinging criticism on social media.
Wigan marquee star Jackson Hastings and his predecessor George Williams are among those who have hit out at the decision to suspend the rule, which guaranteed fringe players - who play in the first-team - a minimum salary.
It is one of several operational rules which have been amended in wake of the coronavirus pandemic for the rest of the 2020 season.
The Rugby League Players Association, agents and clubs were consulted before the minimum salary rule was suspended, says the RFL.
It was done to recognise the fact more young players may be called upon when the season resumes - especially as the schedule is likely to include midweek matches - which clubs could not have budgeted for.
Until now an academy or reserve player earning, for example, £14,000 would have his salary 'topped up' by the club to £15,000 if he made a first-team appearance. Clubs won't need to do that for the rest of this year, but the minimum wage rule will be re-enforced in 2021.
An RFL spokesman explained the rationale, saying there is a "need, in the unique circumstances presented this year, for flexibility to allow clubs to use a larger number of players to fulfil fixtures at senior and academy level – allowing for the possibility of some midweek matches."
He added: "The RFL has stressed to clubs that they are responsible for fielding players at an appropriate level from a development perspective; for complying with relevant legislation including minimum age; and respecting the spirit in which this change has been made."
Some of the game's leading players had earlier criticised the decision.
"And we wonder why kids in England don't want to play our game," tweeted reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel, Jackson Hastings.
"We're never gonna compete with football, fact. But we need to give some hope and incentive to want to play our sport. Come on."
George Williams, who left Wigan at the end of last year to join Canberra, posted: "How is getting less than £15k a year to play at the highest level in the country acceptable? Robbery."
Ex-Wakefield prop Keegan Hirst tweeted: "So for a lifetime commitment to play sport at an elite level and who are expected to put their body and future health on the line, they get rewarded by having their minimum wage lowered."
Former London Broncos winger Omari Caro wrote: "Awful, awful decision. Lads will be earning £8k a year and having to train and play the same amount as someone on £100k-plus. How is that fair? £15k in itself isn't enough. Better off learning a trade and not bothering."
But one player who backed the move was Castleford prop Liam Watts, saying: "Means clubs can play the kids if needed to help fulfil the fixtures. If the clubs have to up every kid's salary from their current one to £15k then it will put clubs over the salary cap, which means clubs wouldn't do it.
"It gives them a chance to play Super League this way."
Among other operational rule changes are the date in which clubs must inform off-contract players their intentions has been put back from this Friday to June 26, as reported today.
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