England players have struck a new pay deal with the Rugby Football Union that will see Eddie Jones’s squad earn around £70,000 each if they win all three of their autumn internationals. Victory over Tonga this weekend will give the players at least £23,000 in match fees while, in contrast, the Pacific Islanders earn just £500 a week.
Last September the England players agreed a 25% pay cut for one season due to the financial impact of the pandemic on the union but a new more performance-related agreement has been reached. The minimum the players will make is less than the pre-pandemic match fee of around £23,000 but victory in matches against Tonga, Australia and South Africa would activate a bonus clause, meaning the squad collecting a similar amount. In addition, the players may earn even more if the RFU’s commercial performance exceeds forecasts.
England players are the best paid in the world – even factoring in last season’s cut – which is further highlighted by comparisons with this weekend’s opponents. The RFU is, however, making a six-figure donation to the Tonga union as a goodwill gesture, as was the case when Samoa came to Twickenham in 2017.
“Player fees for future games have been re-negotiated to include an increased bonus component based on performance,” read an RFU statement.
“Underpinning this is a revenue share agreement with the RFU. If the players perform well on the pitch, they will earn the same as the previous deal and if the RFU commercial performance exceeds projected forecasts then the players will share in this upside. The RFU greatly appreciates the strong cooperation and support from players, the RPA and the players’ agents throughout the pandemic.”
The RFU has also announced closer longer-term links with the Tongan union, which include measures such as providing support staff for the Pacific Islanders this autumn and an ambition for England pathway coaches to spend time working in Tonga. On the eve of England’s World Cup pool stage victory over Tonga in 2019, the then attack coach Scott Wisemantel urged the RFU to consider touring the Pacific Islands.
The Tonga chief executive, Peter Harding, appeared to accept that was unlikely to happen, however, when welcoming the closer alliance with the RFU. He said: “We understand and accept World Rugby rules, commercial realities make it a challenge to host England. However, innovative partnerships like the one we have developed with the RFU will assist to stabilise the [Tonga union] and assist us to make the game more inclusive to women and children; to deliver a strong talent pathway while working towards representation at World Rugby.”