RFL fee plans could have “disastrous effect” on the amateur game and cause exodus of players

James Gordon

A growing number of community clubs and leagues are protesting about the RFL’s recently announced plans to introduce an annual registration fee for participants.

The controversial move would require all players, coaches and volunteers to pay a fee, believed to be in the region of £20-£40 per year, to participate in rugby league activity.

BACKGROUND: RFL defend controversial plans to introduce membership fee for community rugby league

Though the RFL say that clubs have been warned of this plan for several years, some in the community game remain unhappy at the way they say it’s being forced on them.

In a letter to the RFL, seen in full by Love Rugby League, one club said: “We wish to register our strong disapproval of the course of action you wish to take concerning the governing body trying to collect annual fees from all players and volunteers in the amateur game.

“Your proposal to charge an annual registration fee to all players, including children, and to the volunteers in the amateur game would have a disastrous effect on a very considerable number of children and their families as well as to the amateur game itself.

“Amateur rugby league has always had a positive, beneficial effect on young people who have been introduced to the sport, and in particular those from areas of social deprivation. Whilst parents fully understand the necessity to have to pay subscriptions to their amateur clubs, the suggestion of the governing body trying to introduce an additional annual charge to all junior and open age players in addition to volunteers is being met with disbelief and significant concern.

“We feel that there may be alternative courses of action which could be taken, however at present given the lack of transparency (owing to there being an absence of any significant, formal consultation with amateur clubs) it is difficult for these to be considered and discussed.

“We would welcome the opportunity to review the proposal and the evidence base and rationale for the proposal and to enter into a meaningful discussion with the RFL along with other grassroots clubs.”

Points have also been raised about the additional costs incurred by the RFL following the break away of Super League in recent years, which has resulted in duplicate overheads.

The RFL’s accounts to the end of 2019 showed no net assets and a balance sheet deficit of around £3.2m.

The club spokesperson added: “It is understood that the RFL must try to balance the books, but this surely should be at the expense of the professionals not the amateurs.

“We have protested to the RFL about their proposed charges as we consider that they could result in a considerable number of grassroots clubs closing down.

It is simply the case that very few amateur clubs will be able to afford the unnecessary cost and aggravation which these charges would bring.”

In recent interviews, Sandy Lindsay, the RFL’s non-executive director who is chair of the community board, said the governing body wanted to work with clubs to shape the membership fee.

They will also work in partnership to support those who genuinely cannot afford the fee – however, those at the coal face at community clubs believe this number to be far greater than the governing body is anticipating.