England's top women's players could earn £63,500 after 'landmark' RFU deal

England women - England's top women's players could earn £63,500 after 'landmark' RFU deal - Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

England’s top women’s rugby players could earn more than £63,500 next season after the Rugby Football Union announced “ground-breaking” contracts for the Red Roses.

The governing body has mapped out a payment structure for the next three years following months of talks between the RFU, the Rugby Players’ Association and players themselves.

Contracts will be banded into five tiers on a sliding scale, with those in the top bracket seeing their salaries rise from £32,860 to £45,000 next month, representing a 37 per cent pay increase. That figure will rise to £49,600 by July 2025, when England hosts the women’s World Cup.

According to details seen by Telegraph Sport, those on existing contracts will see their wages increase by more than a third this year if they remain in the same band. In total, 32 contracts will be awarded, up from 30 last season, as well as six ‘transition’ contracts for younger players who might still be in higher education or have additional commitments outside of rugby, worth £10,000.

In a major first, players will be paid £2,200 for winning the 2024 Six Nations, with that figure rising to £6,500 if England win another Grand Slam under new head coach John Mitchell.

Although the RFU has budgeted the contracts for the next three years, Telegraph Sport understands most of England players have signed one-year contracts, with only a minority penning two-year deals.

But insiders say the contracts, which the RFU has described as “landmark” for its senior women’s team, have been mostly welcomed by the players, who will also be paid for all commercial appearances going forward.

Sarah Bern, the England and Bristol prop, who was among those who represented the Red Roses in the negotiations, hailed the move as a “really great development for us as a playing group”, adding: “It’s a reflection of how far things have moved on in the women’s game and will support us as professional athletes as we work towards the World Cup.”

Pay conditions in players’ contracts have also been clarified, with particular attention given to match fees. Last September, Telegraph Sport revealed players were being paid half of their usual appearance fee for World Cup warm-up games ahead of the 2021 showpiece in New Zealand, despite the fact they were fully capped Test matches.

As part of the new deals, Red Roses will be guaranteed a payment of £1500 for international appearances. These include Six Nations matches and those in WXV, World Rugby’s new global competition which gets underway in the autumn, when England will play three matches in New Zealand.

While that is still a fraction of the £22,000 that an England men’s player is thought to pocket for playing in a Test match, the RFU is investing significantly more than any other union in its women’s programme, which is still a loss-making enterprise for the governing body.

The new deals mean the highest paid players in a Grand-Slam winning England side, on top of their base salary, could take home an unprecedented £63,500 in the 2023-24 season, which is more than what some players in the men’s Championship earn.

Further down the line, those who are selected for England’s 2025 World Cup squad will receive £5,000 – which represents a 50 per cent increase from last time – and a £15,000 bonus if they win the tournament.

Christian Day, the general secretary of the RPA, said brokering the Red Roses better deals was “vital” at a time when the female game continues to surge in popularity and other nations invest more into their own women’s programmes.

“These ground-breaking new contracts will enable the players to continue to push forwards as both professionals and as people as a home World Cup appears on the horizon for 2025,” said Day.

“The RPA are extremely proud to represent the Red Roses playing squad with the women’s game a key priority of the association. We will continue to innovate and expand our provision to match the needs of our Red Roses members. We would like to thank the RFU for their engagement as valued partners throughout this process.”