The RFU needs to start listening to players or face strikes over plans for 11-month season, warns new CEO

The Rugby Football Union’s new chief executive, Steve Brown, has accepted that that the powers that be across the game need to start listening to player concerns about lengthening the season, otherwise risk a genuine strike across the country’s leading clubs.

Former chief financial officer Brown replaced Ian Ritchie as chief executive at the start of the month, and immediately inherited the growing issue that surrounds the new global calendar, due to be implemented from the start of the 2019/20 season. Since taking on the role, Brown has already seen Joe Marler, Billy Vunipola and most recently Ben Youngs speak out over their concerns about lengthening the season, with matters not helped at all by England No 8 Vunipola suffering his second long-term injury in the space of four months.

Under the proposed plans, the Premiership will continue to start at the beginning of September, with the final taking place at the end of June, two weeks before England’s first summer international in July that will comprise a three-Test tour – except for after World Cup years where one match will be dropped. The result is that England internationals – and likely those across the rest of Europe – face an 11-month season and just five weeks off between their last match in one season and their opening game in the next, something that has triggered great alarm among current professionals.

Speaking on the matter for the first time since replacing Ritchie, Brown appears to accept that something here isn’t right, and set a deadline for the end of the current season to put everything into concrete that will meet World Rugby’s aim to improve player welfare while appeasing the likes of Premiership Rugby [PRL] who want to wring as much money out of the game as is feasibly possible.

“We have no game if we have no players” Brown said. “Players have always been central to the RFU, but we need to bring it to the fore much more now. The players have a voice…

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