Northampton release statement backing North over Premiership Rugby

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Northampton Saints have released the following statement regarding George North being allowed to play for Wales this weekend, despite it being against Premiership Rugby policy:

‘The Northampton Saints management has noted the media reports about a potential investigation of the club regarding George North and his playing for Wales outside the IRB window.

‘George is a world class player who in his short time at Franklin’s Gardens has brought a great deal of excitement and quality, not just to the Saints but to the Aviva Premiership as a competition.

‘When his signing was announced it was hailed in the media and by the league’s hierarchy as a massive statement of intent by the club and a reflection of the competitive nature and high profile offered by the Aviva Premiership.

‘Every player asks for specific conditions to be included in their agreements. This is not unusual in professional sport. In order to realise this rare opportunity of bringing a player like George to Franklin’s Gardens we agreed to allow him to represent Wales if and when selected.

‘The Saints management wants to make it clear that our agreement with George has not contravened any laws, rules or regulations. However when it was finalised the agreement included terms for his release to play international rugby which were outside Premiership Rugby board policy.

‘George is a young man who is proud to represent his country. Indeed the club’s management wants every player at the club to achieve the highest level they can, and wants every player to have the ambition to wear their respective national shirt.

‘The club is also committed to adding depth to the playing squad, and working with someone of George’s calibre has benefitted young, home-grown players like Jamie Elliott, Tom Collins and Howard Packman, all of whom have played first team rugby this season.

‘The Saints management has sought to build a squad that can compete in every tournament. This involves both establishing a strong production line of local talent and bringing in world class players when they become available. Sometimes this requires compromise, and while we appreciate that we are outside Premiership Rugby board policy with this particular agreement we also believe that having George as a Northampton Saints player has benefitted both the club and the league as a whole.’

What do you make of their statement? Are Northampton right to contravene Premiership Rugby?

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

14 thoughts on “Northampton release statement backing North over Premiership Rugby

  1. In some respects I agree with Saints. They negotiated that contract with North and, if he’s away with Wales, they’re the ones who will suffer on the pitch without him. Having said that, I think they were daft not to take into account the agreement with PR when they drew up the contract! How they can say, on one hand, it didn’t break any rules, but on the other hand, they knew it fell outside PR policy seems bizarre!

    1. Because that’s all it is, a policy, hence it not being illegal. The only people apart from the fans who are getting upset is the Premiership Rugby Board because they got excited that there would have a big name in their league. It’s English rugby all over, the culture of it is backwards.

  2. Yes. Quite simply. If he was unavailable to saints through injury there would be no problem. Surely players like North who represent Wales, and Lions must be seen as good adverts for their respective leagues. One would wonder if Super 14 would complain about Dan Carter, Quade Cooper or Jean de Villiers? Prem Rugby need to run the league not the clubs! Micro-management

    1. That’s all very well, but premiership rugby is the clubs. The clubs have representation within the organisation so they can all come together and agree on how everything should be run to make life easier for all the clubs together and for the league. They do need to be involved in the affairs of clubs because if they sign sensitive agreements regarding player release with England, they undermine those agreements by releasing players to other unions. This is exactly what the PRL are there for.

      Given that teams in the Top XIV were being investigated last year for allegations of paying Argentinians and Fijians to turn down offers to play for their country (actually illegal), I’d be surprised if many of them smiled on players leaving outside of the test window

  3. Frankly, there would be no problem in the first place if Wales weren’t playing a game outside of the test window. Why are they playing a game outside of the test window? I think that’s the biggest missed question in the whole debacle with a lot of people choosing to criticise PRL instead for micromanaging. The PRL for the sake of the clubs arranged a deal with the RFU – after lots of negotiating – that would see clubs reimbursed for their players leaving outside of the test window. Under these circumstances, Wales get a player for free. How does that not undermine the agreement between clubs and the RFU? The RFU could just as easily tell all English players to have it written into their contract that they can leave whenever they want and the deal falls through and clubs get nothing from the RFU for losing players.

    The test window is there for the specific reason of preventing these arguments. If Wales choose to host a test outside of the window, they choose to go without players who have made legal and binding agreements with their clubs. That’s simply the way it works. They could have had a game the first weekend when England did, but opted for this structure instead. I think they did the same last year too and in previous years (I remember arguments over Dwayne Peel). Effectively, they’re making life difficult for their players and the clubs they play for when they could be making it so much more simple.

    1. Quite simply WRU can do what ever they want, a window is just a window. They have lost plenty of players who can’t play this weekend due to out side Wales club commitments, just happens George North is not one of them.

      They wanted to play Australia who were booked up the 4 weekends of the window so added one. Whether the main reason is for cash in the tills, rankings points or player experience I don’t know or particularly care, its entertainment – I’m far more looking forward to watching halfpenny, cuthbert and warburton play Aus at home than Treviso away!

      Do you think the WRU want to make life simple for players with clubs outside of Wales? they will purposely drive this issue as far as they can to try and keep the remaining players with the Regions.

      1. Actually, Australia were booked up for THREE weeks of the window. They happened to play the first game outside the window.

        Now who was that against again….

  4. Good points here from Wookie and Lukov.

    I have been rather of the opinion that Northampton shoudl do what they want with their players, and PRL shoudl butt out. However, on reading Wookie’s first post it does occur to me that this could set a rather uneven playing field for the PRL teams.

    Imagine for a moment that other players (Sexton? Lydiate? even North himself?) have negotiated with other PRL clubs, but could not come to an agreement on release outside of the test window. They turn down – or rather they fail to agree terms – the chance to sign a top player, and then Northampton come along and ignore this “policy”.

    This is all hypothetical of course, but it is entirely reasonable to assume that signings have failed to materialise because of adherence by other clubs to this policy.

  5. Whats more…

    What I find very difficult to understand is;

    “our agreement with George has not contravened any laws, rules or regulations. However ……. the agreement included terms ……… which were outside Premiership Rugby board policy.”

    How can the PL be run with a policy that is not backed up by ” laws, rules or regulations”?

    Given the negotiating position of PRL with the whole Euro issue, it seems ludicrous that there should be such a loophole in their own structure.

  6. Messy business – PRL agree this “policy” to stay strong in their resolve that Eng will not get “their” players to play for Eng for “free”. You want em, you pay for em. Collateral damage is that other unions, who don’t pay PRL for these players at all during the window, cannot get them outside the window. Seems a bit churlish on the one hand for PRL to care what Northampton does with it’s non-English players but I understand that this is all politics and is about the fractious relationship between the PRL and RFU.

    WRU have an extra non-IRB-window AI because they want/need the money. Is it right? I don’t think so – Wales play too many international matches as it is … and compete with the regions for the eyes of the fans.

    However, when they do play them I want them to be at full strength.

    Blub is spot on here – without this release clause George would have probably gone to France. Northampton have opened the door here. Expect more shenanigans by English clubs emboldened by the BT deal.

  7. The main reason there is an agreement is that the clubs lose a lot of their players to the RFU on England International weekends. The clubs were unhappy that, because the league fixtures continued over International weekends, the atyendances would suffer and so could league points, meaning possible non-qual for ehc and even relegation. Payments made by RFU are to compensate for England players absence, possibly allowing the club to use that money to recruit some replacements. North is part of the Wales set up. Are the club compensated for his absence? If not he should be allowed to play without Saints being harassed by the PRL. Forgive me if i have that wrong.

  8. North has secured what so many Welsh internationals have been prepared in the past to forego-namely playing for Wales when they are picked.

    After all too many non-Welsh clubs have been cherry-picking our internationals and then telling them when they can and when they cannot play for the national side.

    That is quite simply wrong.

    1. Why is it wrong? Rugby is professional, it’s a business. The clubs cannot tell a player that he can’t play for his international team during the test windows. The test windows are there precisely for that reason. As a player, you run the risk when you play for another professional club that you will only be available to your national side during those windows.

      It’s tantamount to your employer giving you an extra week of holiday to work for another company. Add in the enhanced risk of getting injured in an international match where everyone is inclined to further put their bodies on the line. That is not in the interests of the club. So England offered teams a stimulus to encourage them to release English players. A deal that benefits players, clubs and the national side.

      Now I think it’s great that Northampton opted to release North in his contract, it was possibly the only way to lure him in the first place. However, it undermines the EPS agreement with the RFU which threatens the position all of the Premiership sides.

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