RUGBY Players Scotland (RPS), the association which represents the interests of Scottish professionals, is set to expand its membership to include the new Super 6 squads.
A successful if long overdue launch last November quickly saw Edinburgh and Glasgow players sign up en masse, and the union has since gone on to represent the 31-man World Cup squad in pre-tournament negotiations with the SRU about terms and conditions. Now, as it prepares to celebrate its first anniversary, RPS chairman Tim Swinson is relatively pleased with the start the organisation has made, and with the co-operative attitude of the governing body, which from the start of professionalism onwards tried to insist there was no need for players to have an independent trade body.
While acknowledging that this country has lagged decades behind others when it comes to proper professional representation, the Scotland and Glasgow Warriors lock expressed his confidence that progress was being made, and insisted that enhanced player welfare would not only benefit the individuals concerned, but would also have a positive impact on the sport as a whole. “There’s a lot of good stuff happening,” said Swinson, who is in the last year of his current Glasgow contract. “It’s just a case of improving it slightly.
“The SRU has been really good – there’s a real focus on trying to work together and improve rugby as a whole. We want to make it a job that is good to go into, not just because you want to play for Scotland or you want to play a sport as your job – which is a pretty good side of it. It’s about realising that you’ve got to do something for afterwards, and you’ve got to do that while you’re playing, generally, unless you’re one of the fortunate few who get paid enough money to perhaps retire. It’s a part of your life rather than your whole life.”
For those who have signed up to take part in the semi-professional Super 6 competition, the need to do something besides rugby to earn a living is a present reality, whereas for full-time pros it is often a future concern. But either way, Swinson believes that as long as RPS can grow as intended it will be able to support both groups.
“I’m the chairman; I’m not actually an employee,” explained Swinson, who was speaking at Scotstoun after a Warriors training session ahead of Saturday’s home PRO14 match against Cardiff Blues. “We have one part-time member who is our interim CEO, and we have a three-to-five-year plan that is looking to have a full-time CEO and one or two case workers that would do the day-to-day work with the players in Sevens, the Glasgow and Edinburgh teams, the Academies – and looking like Super 6 as well.
“A lot of people compared us to the English or New Zealand set-up. We are 20 or 25 years behind where they started. We also are far smaller in terms of playing population. The [English] RPA have 24 professional teams: we have two.
“So in terms of scale we’ll never be the commercial juggernaut that the RPA is. We’re therefore trying to focus on supporting the needs of the players during, before and after – and to work with the SRU to really improve those areas. It’s something that’s coming more to the fore, especially with injuries and retirements, the realisation that a rugby career is not for life.”