Tuesday 20 August 2019

England players decide against donating portion of match fee to Samoa

England's Courtney Lawes wins a lineout ahead of Ben McCalman Photo: Reuters
England's Courtney Lawes wins a lineout ahead of Ben McCalman Photo: Reuters

Gavin Mairs

England’s players have decided against donating part of their £22,000 match fee towards their Samoa counterparts ahead of their final autumn Test at Twickenham on Saturday after World Rugby disputed claims by the Samoan Union that the governing body was bankrupt.

Mako Vunipola, the Saracens prop who comes from a Tongan family, had proposed donating at least £1,000 per player earlier this month and it was understood at the time that there was near universal agreement within the squad to do so.

Samoa’s players only receive a £650 match fee in contrast and a widespread appeal has been launched - #HELPSAMOA - to help offset financial problems within the Samoan union which declared itself bankrupt only a few weeks ago.

That declaration has been disputed by World Rugby however and while the Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday that it still intended to donate £75,000 towards the Samoan Rugby Union as a goodwill gesture.

The England players backed the RFU's decision to make a goodwill gesture but  released a statement saying “it isn’t our place to get involved” in the wake of the dispute between World Rugby and Samoa.

“As players we feel it isn't our place to get involved in what appears to be a complex issue between the Samoan union and World Rugby,” said a spokesman for the England players.

“We are aware that the RFU has pledged to make a goodwill gesture to them on behalf of everyone involved with England Rugby and we support that decision.

“As players we look forward to playing Samoa this weekend as I am sure they are too. We won’t be commenting on this matter any further.”

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The RFU, which is set to net revenue of around £5 million for hosting the match against Samoa on Saturday, also released a statement.

“The RFU will make a goodwill gesture payment to Samoa this week in addition to paying the costs we already pay under the World Rugby Terms of participation for England to play Samoa,” said an RFU spokesman.

World Rugby insist that their funding of the Samoan union has increased by 19 per cent and in the last World Cup cycle to 2015, some £17 million was invested.

“Recent statements made by the chairman of the SRU questioning World Rugby's funding package are inaccurate," the world governing body said on Monday.

“World Rugby continues to be fully committed to assisting the SRU with its current financial, administrative and governance challenges.

“While the SRU's failure to implement some jointly agreed high-performance initiatives in 2017 is a concern to World Rugby, it has resulted in a small amount of conditional investment being withheld.

“World Rugby can clarify that the union is not bankrupt.”

Former Samoa and London Irish centre Seilala Mapusua claimed on Tuesday that  any donations by England rugby players from their £22,000 match fee would have only provided “a band-aid solution” while deeper issues remain to be addressed.

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