Women's rugby clubs promise to pay players for the first time

Saracens Women v Harlequins Ladies - Tyrrells Premier 15s Final

History has been made as more English rugby clubs than ever before have promised to pay their female players.

Worcester and Saracens have announced that they will be paying their players from the start of the new season, and Harlequins will be helping their squad pay for accommodation costs also.

The decision comes just nine months after the re-introduction of full-time contracts for 15-a-side players. At the beginning of this year, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) offered 28 players a full-time contract, whereas previously, deals were only offered based on the next major tournament. 

Current Premier15s champions Saracens will be paying selected squad members retainers, including those who are contracted by the RFU. This includes fees for all members of the matchday squad. The decision to pay players comes as part of a new development plan launched by the club.

According to The Telegraph, Saracens are thought to be offering contracts of around £12,000 - £15,000 alongside a fee-per-match which is around £200-£250 per game. Worcester, who finished bottom the past two seasons, has also introduced a fee-per-match of £150-£250, depending on experience.

Saracens, alongside Bristol Bears, already offer their players season-long contracts. Worcester women are providing a pay-to-play system; their players are still not contracted and are free to move clubs throughout the season. 

Although the introduction of retainers and pay-to-play is ultimately a huge positive for the women's game, some are concerned that a gap between teams could be growing. Steve Hill, director of Rugby at Richmond, expressed his concern over the women's game.

Many teams such as Richmond and Waterloo are not affiliated with men's franchises, and therefore, do not benefit in the same way that those affiliated do. Harlequins, for example, has integrated with the men's team to benefit from training facilities, coaches and the fan base. Those teams separate from a male franchise have struggled in the first two seasons of the Premier15s.  

Harlequins Ladies v Darlington Mowden Park Sharks - Tyrrells Premier 15s

Contracts, retainers, and payments will inevitably help entice and keep the best players, enabling those at the top to succeed further. However, with some players still not receiving pay and struggling to afford transport to training, the women's game as a whole cannot move forward. The Rugby Football Union must begin to implement a model that benefits all clubs and all women, otherwise, the game will never progress as fast as the men.

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