Gareth Ellis - Furloughing players inevitable if rugby league is to survive

Obviously, players and sportspeople are exactly the same as everyone else in that we all have bills and mortgages to pay.

Player welfare concerns: Feta Paleaaesina.  
Picture: Peter Harbour
Player welfare concerns: Feta Paleaaesina. Picture: Peter Harbour

Whereas it might not always be top of the list in terms of why we play the game, when it becomes our job it always becomes a big part of it.

Obviously, I’m sure the WhatsApp groups have been running wild throughout Super League this last week on whether people would get paid, whether it’d be this month, if it’d be for a full amount or not and what’s generally gone on in light of the coronavirus and this shutdown.

With the furlough situation and the government being able to contribute 80 per cent of players’ wages – up to £2,500 per month – at the minute, we are pretty much laid off.

Owner: Hull FC's Adam Pearson. Picture: PA

We don’t go training. We’re getting sent a few training programmes to do at home but nothing obviously anything like what you would do at training as you’re not allowed out of the house to go to a gym or anywhere like that.

It is, then, the equivalent of being laid off. From that perspective, I get it: furloughing.

I don’t know the ins and outs of where rugby league is and all its clubs are financially.

But from what I’m hearing and reading between the lines here and in the NRL, the sport has probably not got the biggest financial foundations with a big pot of money sitting there waiting for any rainy days like this.

This is unprecedented and nobody could have imagined making contingency plans for a global pandemic.

If clubs are able to do the furloughing they’d be silly not to particularly with the fact that we don’t know how long this is going to last.

I’m not stupid; I know, like any business, if there’s no money coming in, then you can’t just magically find it from somewhere to pay it out.

There’s obviously the bigger picture as well: the game is at stake in some regard.

But I’m sure that the game is strong enough – maybe not financially – but in terms of the people involved in it to come through this and do so with flying colours.

We’ve been given updates from Lasty (Hull FC acting head coach Andy Last) generally asking how we’re all doing and then there’s been messages from our player welfare officer Feka (Paleaaesina) just to make sure we’re all right and seeing if anyone does need help.

You don’t know how people are individually and what their own personal situation looks like.

There might be some people out there who have got issues or financial problems – it could be anything – and not everyone in rugby league earns thousands and thousands of pounds.

When you’re starting out on your career, you start fairly low down the ladder so to speak.

So everyone is sort of different. Feka has been in touch to say he’s there for anyone who needs a chat and he can help get help for people if needed.

But then there are more official messages from Clarkey (Hull FC chief executive James Clark) who I imagine is like Boris Johnson himself at the minute in terms of having to work hard on things and make sure the club is doing well and doing all the right things, ticking all the boxes.

Both he and (owner) Adam (Pearson) have the challenge of steering the club through this difficult period and hopefully coming out the other end of it.

We got an email a few days ago just to outline where the club stood at that moment and they were applying for the furloughing scheme.

Fortunately, the club is in a position – this month at least – to top up that money so we’ve all got paid what we’d normally get per month.

But I’m not silly enough to think that can go on forever and we’ll have to see what happens after that.

If there is a pay cut to be had, as much as we don’t want that, we know if it has to happen it has to happen.

We understand that money has to be there to be able to pay the wages and, if it’s not, there are going to be some consequences.

Now we’ll just have to see how it all plays out and, in the meantime, I hope you all stay safe and stay well.

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