Every Women’s Super League club’s approach to pay after St Helens announcement

Aaron Bower

Jodie Cunningham (left), Amy Hardcastle (centre) and Victoria Molyneux (right) - Alamy

St Helens made more history on Wednesday by becoming the latest club to confirm they would be introducing payments for their Women’s Super League players.

The Saints are now in a growing line of teams to reward their players financially for their efforts on the field, a process which began over a year ago courtesy of Leeds Rhinos and York Valkyrie.

With the WSL set to be bigger than ever in 2024, with eight teams taking part, here’s a look at how every club in the competition is approaching its strategy in regards to pay and remuneration..

Leeds Rhinos

The Rhinos created history in late-2022 when they announced they would be the first team to make payments to their WSL players – an announcement York Valkyrie quickly followed in supporting.

Leeds provided a win bonus for every game in 2023 along with meritocratic payments for success in both the Challenge Cup and the Women’s Super League. Leeds said at the time it was the latest step on the road to their women’s outfit becoming a fully professional club in the years ahead.

York Valkyrie

York were one of two clubs to provide meritocracy payments to their players ahead of the 2023 season but at the end of last year, after winning the Women’s Super League Grand Final, they announced plans to go one step further.

They signed a number of their leading players to professional contracts for 2024 and 2025, with captain Sinead Peach, plus England superstars Tara Jane Stanley and Liv Wood becoming the first three to agree deals. Tamzin Renouf, Emma Kershaw, Liv Gale, Jas Bell, Lacey Owen, Savannah Andrade, Rhiannion Marshall, Georgie Hetherington and Jess Sharp then joined the trio in committing their futures to York on the enhanced deals, placing the Valkyrie as arguably the market leaders in terms of remuneration for players.

Wigan Warriors

The Warriors are understood to be investing a huge sum of money into their women’s operation this year, which will be spearheaded by the return of Denis Betts to the club as the head coach of the WSL side.

Wigan’s players get financial grants to represent the club and the Warriors are keen to strengthen and develop the infrastructure of the women’s side to make it fully sustainable and marketable in its own right, with a view to potentially getting it ready to become a professional outfit in the years ahead.

Huddersfield Giants

Ahead of the expansion of the Women’s Super League this season, Huddersfield Giants announced a significant revamp of their women’s operation to help drive their plans forwards. However, that did not include the introduction of payment for players yet.

However, the Giants have recruited a number of specific off-field individuals who will be tasked solely with working on the WSL operation, including a team manager, physiotherapist and a media and marketing official. The club have also taken control of the WSL team after it was previously run by the club’s charitable arm, the Huddersfield Giants Community Trust.

St Helens

The Saints became the third club to confirm they would be introducing payments on Wednesday – with the former WSL champions joining the increasing list of clubs to introduce match payments for their players based on their efforts and results on the field.

“To say we are paid for what we offer on the rugby field as athletes now is a really proud moment for me personally,” Saints captain and long-standing advocate of the women’s game, Jodie Cunningham, said.

Barrow Raiders, Featherstone Rovers and Warrington Wolves

The three newest clubs to the WSL are yet to announce any plans for payments or remuneration. Warrington were promoted to Group 1 in 2022 while Barrow and Featherstone are due to step up this year as part of the plans to grow the competition to eight teams, its biggest number yet.

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