Its been long touted that club rugby is moving in a semi-pro structure whereby players are paid a minimum wage or match fees. In some quarters this has been happening for a very long time, where top clubs around South Africa and the rest of the world lure the best players with high incentives as a dangling carrot.
Is this the way forward, or are we oppressing clubs with limited resources and are we moving into a direction where the elite clubs will continue to grow at the expense of the smaller clubs who are tantalizingly facing a demise. Gareth Davies of the Welsh Rugby Union wrote “But please, dear clubs, I implore you let us start again with the right structure. If no club offers payment, then there will be no market for player wage and no club will feel the need. If no club breaks the ranks and we all play for enjoyment, for our town or village of birth, for the club with whom we hold the strongest affinity, with our friends and neighbours, our extended families and our children, then no club will suffer the same threat of oblivion that is currently being felt in some quarters if a similar crisis were to strike again”
He further states “Don’t pay players. Play in the league you are in, strive to beat the opposition you face, dream of lifting the trophies available at your current standard and attract the players who are drawn to your club. Use the money you save on attracting, developing and engaging players for future or on ensuring your club remains the central hub of your community that it has always been. Be sustainable and help safeguard the future for us all”.
Whilst club structures are changing and clubs becoming semi-pro, while this is good and well in an ideal world, one needs to face burning facts. Most club players do not have a stable job that pays enough to provide for their families. The match fees act as a bridge to cover that gap. Players are also expected to be fit to perform at their optimum, yet we no gym fees is paid by clubs. The match fees can help in that regard as well. Most club players are unemployed, clubs expect them to practice every day, with lots of players staying far without transport. The issue of paying for rugby boots and other playing equipment like mouth guards, shoulder pads, etc. comes at a very high cost, match fees can bridge that gap. Even players that is working, most must take leave on a Friday and Saturday to attend matches as at times travelling is far. The Gold Cup is a perfect example, even normal league matches, travelling is an issue for someone who knocks off at 1pm on a Saturday and must still play at 3pm.
These are conversations that must take place in rugby circles. To weigh up the facts, whether its in the best interest of our communities or are we moving into a global direction where sport have become more commercial with the highest bidders investing in their clubs and is generally more successful. Success is not achieved over-night, but proper structures
and planning is also vital.
Does money buy success. Despatch Rugby club ruled Eastern Province Rugby at a point and time with huge financial backers. Crusaders is another example, they were one of the top clubs, playing at the lushy St Georges Park. At a point African Bombers had the same, with sponsors like Puma in the closet. Of late top Uitenhage clubs in Progress have Calbis and Gardens driven by MultiSure Corporation. Border Club East London Police had Just On Cosmetics. For years Old Selbornians had huge backers like your Nashua, Mike Pendock Motors. It’s no secret that Swallows have been holding the monopoly the last couple of years through their financial backers. We can name a lot of clubs like your Rustenburg Impala, False Bay Rugby Club, Durban Rovers and many many more. But when the money dries up, the players vanish and so does the success. It’s a well-known fact that players have no loyalty. It is conversation like these, that will go a long way in establishing in what direction our club rugby is heading.