IRFU 'disrespectful', claim players

Irish rugby players today accused the IRFU of showing a ‘lack of respect’ in an escalation of the dispute over match fees.

The Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) has threatened to pull out of next month’s Test tour to South Africa unless match fees of €1,270 and bonuses of €3,810 are doubled.

It said the IRFU had wrongly claimed that players were issuing demands and had cancelled a scheduled meeting at the last minute to discuss the issue.

“The performance of the Irish rugby team has been outstanding over the last number of years but still the IRFU treats the players with a lack of respect,” a spokesman stated.

“The players have the best interests of Irish rugby at heart and would do nothing to jeopardise the future of the game in this country. All IRUPA is asking for is to negotiate a reasonable increase in the match fees and win bonuses for the first time in six years.”

The union said the IRFU had increased ticket prices by 80% since 1998 but had not increased match fees in line with inflation. It added that players signed new contracts with the IRFU this year on the understanding that the match fees and win bonuses would also be renegotiated.

The IRFU, which recorded a deficit of €6m last year, said it could not afford to pay the €500,000 cost of the increased bonuses. It said the international squad was already being paid €4m in wages and that any further payments would take money from club rugby.

“We have very well paid players. We’re delighted with the success they have and they’re well rewarded for it. We don’t have €500,000 more to pay,” said IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne.

The Irish squad for the South African test series was named yesterday and is due to fly out on June 5. The IRFU is due to meet the players’ union tomorrow in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

The South African Rugby Football Union said it was monitoring the dispute between Irish rugby players and the IRFU very closely.

Spokesman Anthony Mackaiser said the union had sent a letter to the IRFU requesting up-to-date information.

The South Africans are anxious that a full strength Irish side arrives for the two match series next month as they prepare for the Tri-Nations competition with New Zealand and Australia.

“In the meantime, the IRFU has announced its squad that is likely to tour and we are hopeful that they will resolve their issues with the players as swiftly as possible,” Mr Mackaiser added.

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