13 Apr 2012

Provincial rugby players facing lower salaries

9:58 pm on 13 April 2012

The national development officer for 30 rugby clubs says lower salaries for provincial players may make the sport less attractive to young, talented players.

The New Zealand Rugby Union says player payments across the 14 top tier unions fell by more than 8%, or $1.73 million, last year and it expects more cuts.

The NZRU says player payments in the past for an ITM Cup squad member have ranged from $15,000 to $60,000, but payments are clearly trending down.

Marist rugby development officer Tony Meachen says that decline could force prospective players to re-think their options.

Mr Meachen says some players may have a young family or be trying to buy a house and be enticed by the lure of more money in other codes or overseas.

He says it's not about being greedy - it's about having enough money to live on.

But Neil Sorenson, the NZRU's general manager of professional rugby, believes salary reductions will not cause players to move to rugby league or head overseas.

"There's not too many sports in New Zealand where you can earn a wage, and rugby is fortunate to be in a position to offer a few hundred people an opportunity to play a professional sport.

"But you've still got 145,500 other players that are amateurs. So it's a very, very small percentage - less that half a percent are professional."

Mr Sorensen says the NZRU is simply trying to ensure the health of the provincial unions.

Rugby agent Ken Hale also doesn't believe cuts to provincial salaries will lead to players rushing overseas.

Mr Hale his clients are naturally unhappy at taking a pay cut, but it is not easy for provincial players to make the move. Foreign quotas in overseas clubs are limiting opportunities for provincial players.

Mr Hale says not having the right to work in other countries is also limiting the flow of players offshore.

Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Andrew Flexman says players realise that falling salaries are helping to keep their union solvent and their jobs safe.