Player pay issue: 'Something has to give' – former Ireland centre Darren Cave


Former Ireland centre Darren Cave retired in 2019 after 12 seasons with Ulster

Former Ulster and Ireland centre Darren Cave says players and governing bodies have to find “common ground” over salary disputes.

Rugby Players Ireland said it was “very disappointed” after it was reported that the IRFU is seeking a 20% pay cut for the four provincial sides.

There has been no action since 13 March because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“At the end of the day, both sides want to play rugby and both will have to give a little bit,” said Cave.

Cave, who won 11 Ireland caps and retired at the end of the 2018-19 season, says he can understand both sides of the debate.

“I think something is going to have to give,” said the 33-year-old on BBC Radio Ulster.

“If I was a player at the minute I would fully understand, but I wouldn’t be dying to put my hand up and say I don’t want to be paid as much any more.”

After hanging up his boots last year, Cave admitted how he would react to the proposed cuts if he was still playing was “a really hard question to answer”.

“Players have made financial decisions, whether it is moving countries or buying houses, on the basis that they were going to be able to budget appropriately,” he said.

The four Irish provinces have returned to training ahead of inter-provincial Pro14 games from 22 August

He added: “The IRFU is saying it can continue to pay players in full, but they’ll close and run out of money.

“If the IRFU can’t physically afford to pay players at this rate, which you can understand if it couldn’t, I think there will have to be some kind of wage reduction.

“Ultimately, what I think will happen is that in the short term, maybe over the next couple of years, the money will have to slightly come down for the players.

“It may be smaller than the IRFU would like, but it probably won’t be sticking to what was contractually agreed pre-Covid.”

‘Hard to justify investment’

The governing bodies in England and Wales are tackling similar financial challenges to those facing the IRFU.

On Tuesday, chief executive Martyn Phillips said he was confident the Welsh Rugby Union can reach a new agreement with Wales’ top players about future pay cuts.

In some cases, clubs in England have been forced to release players while wage cuts and deferrals have been implemented.

“There is going to be less money in rugby and one of the biggest expenses is player wages,” added Cave.

“The players aren’t playing, tickets aren’t being sold, there’s no bums on seats and there’s no corporate.

“Those big companies which have had to furlough hundreds of staff or have made thousands of redundancies – how can they justify pouring tens of thousands of pounds into professional rugby?

“It’s wrong. You can’t make redundancies and then be paying for shirt sponsorship.”

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