Ever since professionalism came in, rugby has developed in so many different ways both on and off the field. But there has been one element that has crept into the grassroots game, which causes huge problems across the UK and Ireland. It’s something that’s largely kept quiet and under the radar but we all know it’s going on.
There is a fundamental difference between the professional game and the amateur one - for the professional players, playing the game is their job and they rightly get paid for the opportunity they're lucky enough to have.
Grassroots rugby is predominantly played socially or as a pastime and so clubs should avoid making payments to players below a certain level.
We understand those clubs who have a genuine ambition to get to one of the top leagues in the country but there needs to be a level of reality brought into this decision.
Most clubs won’t be able to, or frankly don’t have the desire to reach the top leagues of the game and are happy within their competitive county leagues. The prospect of going up one or two leagues is enough for many clubs to remain motivated and financially afloat.
By paying players at this level, huge problems are created which undermine what the grassroots game is about.
One of the main issues we are faced with is the commitment players give to clubs. If players are being paid for something, there exists a level of commitment but it isn’t the same as the commitment given to something you genuinely love.
This is illustrated by the love, care and attention some of our Club Partners give to their club. If individuals commit to sharing their precious spare time to help sustain a massive part of the local community there is a real and genuine ‘buy in’ from those involved and players play for the love of the club rather than the money they are handed in an envelope on a Saturday afternoon.
Thus, being paid can have a negative knock-on effect with the loyalty shown by players to their Club. They sometimes don't have the love for their club as described above.
In turn, when things start to get tough, they disappear, find a club that is willing to give them the same playing fee and then go and play for them instead. Loyalty is non-existent.
Take that a step further and rival clubs will target players they would like to have in their team, offering them a few extra pounds to play on a Saturday. Players will leave a club in the lurch, turning their back easily, guilt free.
This leaves clubs in danger of not being able to field teams each weekend in a time when we need to be growing the game and not ripping the heart out of it.
We’ve heard of examples of clubs who have been left with essentially no senior sides of note due to players departing and going elsewhere, leaving the junior set up alone.
What message does this give across the game and where do we want this to end?
It’s been talked of within some of the unions of placing a ban on club’s ability to pay players. They don’t want it to happen and don’t see the value in it.
It’s easy to see what some players will say when they are giving up two evenings and one afternoon a week to play and train but surely they started playing for the love of the game?
We also understand the point made when players say they are risking getting injured when playing for their clubs; we get that and that’s why we have created our E4R Player Insurance Package, insuring them against that injury scenario.
It’s understandable that some clubs want to mount a challenge on some of the leagues above but there needs to be a realistic and recognizable limit to this.
Paying players at a level far from National League level undermines the values of the game and leaves it in a precarious position.
What are your thoughts on paying players at the grassroots level? Leave them in the comments section below…