What are the positives and negatives to full time & semi-pro set-ups?

What are the pros and cons of Full Time & Semi-Pro set-ups?
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Following the eventful 2016/2017 season and the demise of London Welsh, clubs in Level 2 have had to reassess their finances with some changes in the operations of squads such as the inclusion or transformation to a semi-professional set-up.

Welsh being kicked out of the Championship following their voluntary liquidation after financial problems, at the famous Old Deer Park club, was a stark warning to all championship sides. 

It therefore is necessary for any board to ensure that their club is sustainable. Sustainable means the ongoing existence of the club at a competitive level, able to pay all of the staff and respect all commitments.

In today’s professional club, the administrators have a duty to consider all of the models available. This could even be seen as critical for all those outside of the elite premiership sides. This means that a professional club should look at the blend of amateur, academy, part-time and full-time professionals as its basis for sustainable success. 

Here TRU contributor Arun Watkins considers the advantages and disadvantages of full time structures & part-time equivalents.

Professional club with full-time players:

  • It’s the players job and main source of income so will take their entire dedication.
  • Players are more marketable since they’re 100% available for club initiatives.
  • Since they can train more intensely, the strength & conditioning of the players would be better, and players will last longer in the game.
  • Better quality of play, as players will train full-time as opposed to part-time. The team will be better drilled and capable of securing more successful scores. 

What’s the negative of full-time players:

  • Cost, cost, cost!!! A full-time squad for a rugby union team costs a lot of money as the wages need to supplement the incomes the players could be earning in other jobs. This burden on cash flow can lead to potential financial instability within squads if the club doesn’t have the business model that generates a revenue turnover required to safely pay those wages. For example, this has lead to sides such as Plymouth, Welsh & Jersey fall into financial troubles in the past few years. 

Positives of a Part-Time Setup:

  • Cost, conversely the cost benefits of a part time structure are significant. Obviously, the club would be paying only part of the salary (c.50%) with the player needing to make up the rest through alternative work. Additionally, players are normally only paid in the season – though match fee - so the club does not have to pay for players wages when cash flow is low, between the months of June, July and August where there is little to no rugby on.
  • Flexibility – a club could normally sign up and afford more part-time players as opposed to full-timers. In turn, they don’t have the same stress when it comes to injury as there will be more viable replacements unlike professional outfits where they will be less replacements available and clubs can only afford limited amounts.

Potential Negatives of Part-Time Setup:

  • Dedication - It is probable that players who play part-time, aren’t able to commit to the same degree as full time players. Most will have jobs to supplement their income and as such, may not have enough time for conditioning. This is not to say that I feel part time players aren’t dedicated. It is realistic that they simply cannot put in the same number of hours.
  • Quality of Team Play – With less time on the training pitch and less time practicing drills. There will undoubtedly be some impact on the quality of executions.
  • Team Cohesion – Similarly, the squad will spend less time together, which will result in a lower level of cohesion, unless specific initiatives are put in place to address this.

Conclusion

Rugby clubs, like all businesses, have to thrive within the real world. Sometimes it is necessary to be sparing in the cost of people within the business, until a model is developed whereby ample full-time staff can be deployed. I believe that the key stakeholders in rugby clubs should look at all available options and the potential impact on their long-term survival. In this regard, amateur, academy, part time and full time playing structures are all valuable options. 

 

RFU Championship 2016/17 - Points Table