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So - how does paying players at level 4/5/6 work?


Academy Player
Jun 11, 2024
Hi everyone - this is no prejudice to any individual or team rather an interest in open and honest dialogue. We've all heard about boot money and it's fun to say xyz are paying players but how, in most cases, does this actually work? In the late 90s I played at Level 6 and we got a £35 win bonus (there were contracts and where applicable players paid tax on this earning - it was official and above board, although stupid in hindsight and triggered a relegation free fall over around a decade. I've heard of players at level 8/9 getting boot money etc (likely nonsense) although I remember a player stating in court he received his sole income from being a professional rugby player (at a club around level 7/8). I also understand clubs are permitted to pay players an amount according the the level they're playing at, as well as coaches etc so player/coaches are commonplace and I guess it's possible that players may acquire other paid positions within a club (secretary? Head of youth development etc?). This has come about as a Cornish club - Camborne - at level 4 have made some pretty big signings over the last couple of seasons, most recently 2 established Cornish Pirates (including the best fullback in the Championship) and last year Fijian International Josh Matavesi (albeit he's a Camborne boy) and Alex Ducker (a talented and prolific score at levels 3/4/5 and 8/9 when he fancied it; a well-known and interesting and divisive character, by some accounts, in SW rugby ) who were rumoured to be on what most would call big money - there have been other signings and a few of the best local prospects from level 5/6 have been snapped up to. Now; I've no problem if someone wants to say no one gets paid there or that there are no separate sponsors' arrangements (25k a year salary for vending machine consultant for example) but I suppose the wider question is. Is it worth it? What's the end game? If a sponsor spends 100k to help promotion, then what? £200k the next season? Is it just, let's go with it and enjoy the ride? As a fan I'd be excited for sure although not if the soul was ripped out of my club perhaps (as I have seen at some clubs). This isn't in any way a dig at any club; just an interesting discussion point
There's a lot to unpack here, which is made all the more difficult by the lack of paragraphs.

In the majority of cases, it works as long as the benefactor(s) / sponsor(s) continue contributing. There are plenty of examples of what happens when the money is no longer there. Best case scenario is a graceful slide back down the pyramid until the club in question funds their "natural level" around where they were before the money arrived. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of sides that have had to start again at the bottom of the pyramid when they've found that the foundations that the club was built on were destroyed by radical short-term changes.

Almost anyone with money to "invest" in a rugby club is going to want to see a return on said "investment" sooner rather than later, so naturally spend their money on players. To me, the challenge for any rugby club that pays players is to build / expand a business capable of subsidising the club's rugby activities and would advocate for any injection of capital to be used to achieve this. At the end of the day, if you pay the piper, you call the tune and it's a stretch any committee to turn down what free money being offered to buy better results, but there are enough cautionary tales out there that any committee in this position should be wary of the consequences of making these kind of changes.
There are plenty of examples of lower level clubs having money and signing players, then also losing all the players when the money runs out which it invertible will do.
Newport (Salop) were level 5 in the Midlands a few seasons ago. According to a good source, it was costing them £120k to run the first team. This includes coaching, physio support, travel and paying players.
The entire club revenue was about £300k, so once the first team and rent were paid, there wasn't a lot left for the community game. Newport work their clubhouse hard as a venue and they have some good sponsors. Despite all of this, they had their arses handed to them when promoted to Nat 2.
A lot of the clubs members talk about 2 clubs within the club (1st XV and then everyone else), and it is a cause of a lot of discussion and dissatisfaction.

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