Damien Hopley is the chief executive of the Rugby Players’ Association and he recently spoke with the press about his immense desire to protect his members’ livelihoods as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the world. According to Hopley, “the foundations of sport have been completely rocked and we’re now in a position where we’re starting to understand the real impact.”
The way the Covid-19 pandemic is projected to keep growing has Hopley worried about the financial impact playing for crowdless stadiums will have on not only the players’ incomes, but the rest of the association as well. Rugby especially hasn’t received any government assistance when it comes to making up for the financial loss of playing a sport without a crowd.
Rugby in general is also a sport that’s had to fight to be taken seriously, and after 25 years of work to “build a viable professional structure,” Hopley is worried it will all be diminished in a matter of months thanks to Covid-19. He referred to it as a “typhoon sweeping through the sport.”
“When Rugby club owners’ businesses start being affected as adversely as they have been, there’s a seismic issue. A lot of players are getting nervous about what the future holds. No one can look into a crystal ball and say where it is going to end up, hence the call for government support.”
There’s already been a significant cut to many players’ salaries, and Hopley is worried that these drops will cause more and more players to leave the league and leave it completely void of talent. The association itself has a multitude of wealthy investors who have always been inspired by the sport, however, it’s hard to get players to want to stick around for a sports future that may or may not exist.
As a players’ union the ultimate goal is to keep everyone employed, and protecting those jobs as well. Right now the biggest concern is over the amount of jobs available and which ones will be terminated as the pandemic continues. If fans aren’t able to come back and pay for the games that they normally enjoy, the impact on the sport could be devastating.
Hopley claims that even if there is some sort of financial bailout, at this point the players’ association has endured “irreversible damage” due to the looming dark future and already massive pay cuts some individuals have seen; some players have received cuts up to 25%.
“Communities rely on their local rugby club as a beacon of hope and inclusivity. You just hope that with common sense and social distancing people can return, revenues can start to trickle in and a bit of confidence will come back. The bottom line is we all want to see the game surviving.”
The regular Premiership season is still in the midst of concluding and as four teams remain fans are eager to see which of the Bath, Wasps, Sale, or Bristol teams will be eliminated next. The Wasps’ win on Monday has elevated them to a second place position where they will aim to take the gold this upcoming Sunday.
Bath will have to win as well to qualify by virtue as well, and based on if they win or not they could knock out either Sale or Bristol for the final game.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.