So in a saga that is dragging on longer than the ross and Rachel will they won’t they (90’s reference) the contract negotiations of the Munster / Ireland stalwarts CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony is dragging on, a bit like the former saga did.
Reports this morning suggest that the initial offers, which are not always the ending offer, where so low that the bright lights of France appear closer for the two. An extra €20k on top of the €260k (in Standers case) was the opening gambit from the always frugal IRFU. Business being business that is the way it starts.
But let’s look at what that does to the mind of both parties.
For the player, who would feel they have continues to perform at a high level regardless of the jersey, who has worked through injury for the good of the team and who has represented the game in a professional way. They would think that the financial reward should be up with the near top earners in the central contracted locker room. Currently Heaslip and O’Brien would be the top earners. So what does a low ball offer do at the beginning of the contract negotiations? Well it shows the player what their bosses think of them in terms of expendability and ability for the team to continue without them. This is not a good opening move. This is what forced Sexton to France, into longer seasons and a list of injuries that could be avoided. Especially considering that the Union brought him back on a nearly identical wage. What was saved there? And was it worth sacrificing the prime of the playmaker of the national team? I would suggest no. I would suggest that Leinster would have preferred to have Sexton and Madigan in the 10 jersey for those years as opposed to Jimmy Gopperth. It was short sighted and saved a few euros to put a province back a few years.
They are in the same scenario again with the Munster lads. They played the same game with Zebo and that is where it should have been played. Whilst being great to watch, in terms of expendability he is not in the same league in red or green as Stander and O’Mahony. Each negotiation MUST be different depending on the player involved. That is just how high level business works; it is the same in sport. You play the game that is in front of you. But the IRFU seem to have a rigid game plan that is seeing players look elsewhere. Especially with a world cup cycle coming, they need to hang on to as many of the squad as possible. The last thing you want is for a tired team to show up for the RWC.
But for the business of IRFU incorporated, does it make sense to play these games with their assets. Which is what the players are. There is no room for emotion in business. What is the cost of Stander and O’Mahony (in this case) leaving? Well they would lose control of the player. They would be playing more games which opens the risk for injury, and serious injury. The player will not be able to make every national squad get together, which means they won’t be totally up to speed when the big games come. Along with that, during the 6 Nations, a swathe of players will be leaving camp during the tournament to go and play club rugby. Instead of resting, they will be playing. Not ideal at all.
So what is the cost they are willing to pay for control of their asset? And are they willing to put that out as their opening gambit, assuming that the players are not massively motivated by money (fair assumption). Kind of like a ‘buy it now’ price on eBay. Assuming that the union have a figure in mind, why open with such a low offer in Standers case? He is not someone who is expendable; he is not someone who you would allow to France to play. Especially the way he plays, he is not far from injury with the protected Ireland setup. Injury is a certainty for the two in France.
So the message they are sending to the players is ‘here is our opening offer, this is what we think of you in terms of importance to our organisation’. Not a good message. Not the way to go.
With the hard work being done over the last year in terms of squad building to take aim at 6 Nations and world cups, it would be a real pity if the suits in the IRFU threw a spanner in the works.
Do spread the word.