Premiership Rugby players may strike over salary cap reduction
RPA chairman Mark Lambert: "We very much see it [a strike] in any walk of life as the last action...but it's difficult for us to entirely rule out any options."
By PA Media
Last Updated: 10/06/20 10:51pm
Premiership players could go on strike over contractual issues arising from the reduction of next season's salary cap by more than 20 per cent.
Premiership Rugby has confirmed clubs unanimously voted to cut the cap on senior wage bills from £6.4m to £5m from the start of the 2021-22 season, before being restored to current levels by the 2024-25 season at the latest.
The measures were taken to help clubs weather the coronavirus crisis but Rugby Players' Association (RPA) chairman and Harlequins prop Mark Lambert says some of his members are being "strong-armed" into accepting reduced contracts as a result, and could not rule out players withdrawing their labour.
"We don't see that [strike action] as an optimum outcome for anyone, certainly not for players, but players are also not obliged to accept changes to their contracts," Lambert told Sky Sports News reporter James Cole.
"The clubs require their agreement to make any changes to their salaries or terms of their contracts.
"So if they force that through without a player's agreement, then that is a breach of contract and players need to be aware of where they stand from a legal point of view.
"It's not our intention to move to strike action because there are obviously downsides to that for players as well."
Lambert also pointed to a breakdown in communication between players and the league.
"Our attitude has been to be very open to a collective, collaborative consultation on how to get through this [the coronavirus pandemic]," he added.
"Now players are essentially being strong-armed into signing amendments to their contracts and being made to feel they have no option but to do that, and that's very much not the case."
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Premiership players have already undertaken 25 per cent wage cuts during the coronavirus lockdown, and face the prospect of the reductions being made permanent under the new arrangement.
The salary cap reduction was agreed partly as a consequence of a review by Lord Myners, commissioned by Premiership Rugby, in the wake of the breaches by Saracens.
Myners' review found the current level of the cap to be broadly unsustainable, with only one Premiership club recording a profit last season, and called for tougher sanctions for clubs breaching the limit in future.
On top of the new £5m ceiling, clubs are able to nominate two players whose salaries fall outside the total, but this will reduce to one from 2022-23.
Clubs will still be able to spend an extra £600,000 on homegrown players and have no restrictions on homegrown academy players.