Super League players union chief promises change: and offers Alex Walmsley role

Aaron Bower
Garreth Carvell

The head of rugby league’s players union in the United Kingdom has told Love Rugby League that Super League players frustrated with the game that they do have a vehicle to exact change already in place with the RLPA – and has offered Alex Walmsley the chance to become a central figure in proceedings after his high-profile comments this week.

St Helens prop Walmsley penned a hard-hitting column with Rugby League Live, insisting that players were growing increasingly discontent with a number of issues both on and off the field. He said it was now time for a players union to be formed by existing players to try and push through changes – or at least resist ones that are already being made which the players may disagree with.

But Garreth Carvell, who heads up the GMB-owned Rugby League Players Association, has told Love Rugby League he believes the tools are already there in regards to a fully-functioning union, and has promised to help Super League players with their concerns however they see fit.

He has urged as many as possible to sign up – and has identified Walmsley as an ideal candidate to help grow the union from strength to strength.

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Carvell told Love Rugby League: “It’s all there in plain sight, and has been for a while now. The engagement and input from players is crucial, especially if we are a union run for players, by the players.

“Running a union is a huge undertaking with a lot of things happening under the radar such as disciplinary issues, UKAD rule violation representation, contract breaches etc etc. The players union is up and running and players have a voice, it’s just a case of pulling everyone together to make that a united voice.

Alex Walmsley St Helens SWpix
Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpixl

“The forum for players to voice their concerns and opinions is already in place and I’ll make it my priority to ensure the players that want to be involved are at the forefront of this movement. The union is constantly updated by the RFL on everything happening through the laws, brain health committee and personal communications which gets relayed to the players that are engaged and are members.”

Carvell admits Walmsley’s comments have proven beneficial as they have reignited the debate over serious player representation, and while he believes the RLPA can offer what players require, he thinks the St Helens and England prop would be an ideal candidate to come on board and help spread the message for change.

“I’m pleased this topic has been raised again as it allows us to speak about it and pushes it to the front of people’s minds,” Carvell said. “I would urge anyone involved in the game to get involved, just as Alex has.

“We need passionate players that love our sport. I want to get Alex involved. I want him involved in the union whether it’s with the GMB arm or whether the players decide to go in a different direction.

“He’s the type of person that can lead us forward. A current player with an incredible reputation and good moral compass. He is the type of person to get the message out there and allow others to realise that this is really important and it benefits future generations and makes the game stronger as a whole.”

Carvell is attempting to visit as many clubs as possible in the coming weeks and months to try and encourage sign-ups to the union. He says he has already been contacted by players at two different Super League clubs who have informed their respective playing groups about the RLPA’s benefits.

“There’s an opportunity to speak to me, ask questions and vice-versa to try and engage and see how we take things forward together as one,” Carvell said.

“As an independent Union the GMB is run by the players, for the players – the RLPA branch was founded by Geoff Burrow, so all players within rugby league go to a branch called the RLPA within the GMB organisation.

“This allows us to solely focus on rugby league. We’re led by the players, we advise players with a concern and we help them voice their that concern through the correct channels. It’s up to the players to dictate the direction the union takes which is what we’ve done on other issues. It’s all there, it’s all in place.”

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