Manu Tuilagi and Noel Reid leave Leicester after refusing pay cuts
English club says it has lost €5.5m in revenue since it was last able to host a match
Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi in action against Gloucester at Welford Road in 2016. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Manu Tuilagi, the England and Lions centre, is believed to be among six Leicester players released by the Premiership club for refusing to sign new deals on reduced pay. Former Leinster centre Noel Reid is also believed to be released.
Kyle Eastmond and the long-serving prop Greg Bateman, players who are 30 and 31 respectively, are also heading for the Tigers’ exit and understood to have taken legal advice.
In stark contrast, the Tigers’ east Midlands rivals Northampton have secured all their players on lower salaries for next season.
Leicester, where Steve Borthwick arrives as head coach this week facing an uphill task to rebuild morale, believe they have paid the price for being the Premiership’s best-supported club. The Tigers estimate they have lost £5 million (€5.5 million) in income from staging matches and events at Welford Road since the game shut down in March.
“The club’s commercial activities have felt the pandemic’s impact more than most given the size of its stadium and fan base,” Leicester said in a statement. “The club has lost approximately £5 million in revenue since it was last able to host a match.
“Difficult decisions have had to be made, including salary reductions, reduced working time as well as a redundancy process which concludes today and could lead to the departure of up to 31 members of staff. In addition, a small number of players will leave to seek new opportunities elsewhere.
“The players were asked to accept reduced wages and, following feedback, we created a mechanism through which a proportion of foregone earnings could be reclaimed when the club returns to profitability. The vast majority of players fully support our recovery plans.”
Northampton had no dissenters when it came to pay cuts with all the squad, except the lowest paid, taking a salary cut for the next 12 months. “This was not a decision that was taken lightly,” said the club’s chief executive, Mark Darbon. “It was a necessary temporary change to reduce our cost base and preserve the financial sustainability of the club.
“We are confident we can weather this storm and emerge stronger as a result. The decision involved open collaboration with our senior player group and Rugby Players’ Association representatives, who have been helpful throughout.”
Unions worldwide are also feeling the squeeze. Rugby Australia has agreed a 30 per cent pay cut with its players, but talks between the Irish Rugby Football Union and the players’ association there over a 20 per cent reduction remain deadlocked after four rounds of talks.
The Welsh Rugby Union is making £600,000 (€665,000) available to clubs to help them buy equipment or adapt facilities to meet the social distancing requirements.