POLL: Should Saints be punished for releasing George North to Wales?

george north
Northampton Saints are set to be fined, at the least, for allowing George North to play for Wales in an international outside of the IRB approved window, in the process contravening the Premier Rugby policy. As has been pointed out, other clubs have not allowed their stars to do the same in the past, depriving them of potential international caps. Do you think this is right? Do the Saints deserve a fine or should they, as some people have been calling for, be docked points as well?

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17 thoughts on “POLL: Should Saints be punished for releasing George North to Wales?

  1. Punishing a club for weakening their side because they are honouring a key part of George’s contract seems nonsensical. Not having a world class player in their first 15 is punishment enough surely?

    1. Saints can’t have it both ways. They said that signing North was great for the Premiership as a whole, as people would be excited to watch him. By not having him playing in a game that he should be, they’re devaluing the Premiership Rugby product.

  2. It is very messy and unsatisfactory BUT unless ALL clubs that have signed up to the Premiership Rugby “policy” play by those rules then you will have chaos. They can’t have it both ways, Northampton are ignoring the very thing that ALL the clubs signed up to ensure fairness in the way these matters are handled. And yes I am the sole fine and docked points voter.

  3. This boils down to an employer being fined for honouring an employee’s contract.

    It’s barmy and would not happen in any other sphere of employment.

    Also, If they did start fining clubs or dictating how clubs can write contracts, Prem Rugby could be seen as breaching restraint of trade rules, surely?

    1. Yes, you’re probably right about the “restraint of trade”, but of course the core issue is the construction of the contract (or at least, this specific clause) in the first instance.

      Having said that, i would be surprised if they could be fined.

    2. I think it happens in all sorts of spheres of employment. If a company has a contractual obligation to an employee that goes against the rules of that industry’s regulator, then the regulator is within it’s rights to penalise the company.

      I think it’s a pretty important that PRL does punish Saints to uphold a principle that is part of the RFU/PRL Heads of Agreement. The same concord allows the England coach enough access to his players to allow him to build a competetive team and incentivises the development of home-grown players over foreign imports. If clubs aren’t willing to work within the spirit of that agreement then English rugby is harmed.

      I’m sure Saints knew what the concequences of the contractual clause would be and weighed that up when offering it to North. Just fine them and get on with it

  4. “Should” they be punished? Not sure. I am not sure that they “should” if they have only gone against a policy, instead of contravening regulations, rules etc.

    “Can” they be fined may be a pertinent question.

    Taking my cue from some of our current politicians, I am doing a complete 180 degree turn around in my view of this. For reasons on the previous thread, I believe that Northampton are completely in the wrong.

    Using the argument of “but it is in his contract, and after all, he is a brilliant international player, who should be allowed etc, etc” is wholly disingenuous, as it is becoming clear that the fault here lies not with Northampton allowing him to play, but with their agreeing in his contract that he can play.

    No criticism of North here by the way – or his agent. Criticism of Northampton for creating this situation.

    The Premiership is not going to fall apart because George North is playing in Red on Saturday, BUT if Northampton can get away with breaking ranks in this manner, does this not open up a whole new “dirty” game of signing up all and sundry, and to hell with the policies.

    I know that the salary cap is regulated, but I wonder what else is a simple “policy”?

    Commitments to academies, grass roots work, ticket pricing? I don’t know but there is a whole load of potential to play fast and loose with policies, if this sets a precedent.

  5. PRL continues to be a blight on the face of rugby. International rugby is the heartbeat of the game and having English clubs players playing internationals, especially genuine stars like George North, only enhances the English league from a rugby perspective. The view that it apparently devalues the “product” from a financial perspective tells you everything you need to know about the people who run this organisation.

    1. It’s the PRL that hammered out the EPS agreement with the RFU, an agreement that allows England to call up it’s players whenever they want (within the confines of the agreement) which gives great value to English rugby as now the England/Saxons/age squads get more training days and it is more constructive for the international side. The PRL had to bring all of the English clubs together to decide what they wanted from the RFU in return for release of their players and through that agreement teams get salary cap extensions for good academies bringing through homegrown talent and financial support for teams playing English players, strengthening the current squad and squads of the future. Is that the blight on the game you were talking about?

      Releasing North sets a precedent that could upset the entire EPS agreement. In this situation, Wales have arranged a test outside of the test window and Northampton have written into North’s contract that he should be released. This contravenes an agreement with the PRL to not do this. Northampton have therefore gone against the interests agreed by the other 11 premiership sides and the RFU in the interests of themselves signing George North. That is a selfish act. The 12 teams have to agree on a code of conduct that will benefit some and cause problems for others so Northampton have decided that an item on the agreement doesn’t suit them at this immediate moment and gone against it.

      Preventing North from going to Wales outside of the test window won’t damage the Premiership because he’s missing that weekend. That’s a very narrow view of the PRL’s concerns. However, it does set a precedent that could see other players doing the same and England choosing to offer England places only to those who can escape contract so potentially 50 players are missing from the Premiership through international commitments and a further 50 have had to leave the Premiership to get a contract to allow them to join up with their national squads. Now that does start to damage the league.

      So, who is looking after their own interests? Wales who have arranged a test outside of the test window to potentially earn extra cash/improve rankings for themselves? Northampton who get to have George North competing for them in the Premiership and Europe? Or is it the PRL who are fining a club for breaching an agreement made by 12 teams and the RFU?

      I don’t criticise the WRU. They’re looking after their interests and aren’t damaging anyone that haven’t already agreed to it. The PRL are looking after the interests of all the Premiership clubs and the RFU, within the confines of their agreements. Northampton get George North at the expense of an agreement to not release players not under the EPS agreement outside of the test window. That’s self interest at the expense of others and yes, it should be punished.

  6. Not at all. Fining a team for releasing a player is ludicrous. It may have been short sighted for them to include this clause into the contract but surely the people at fault are the idiots in Welsh management that keep organising internationals outside the designated window.

    This weekend 12 teams will do battle, all fielding a match day 23. That’s a total of 276 players. If you REALLY think the absence of one of them, for the grand duration of 80 minutes “devalues the premiership” then you’re an idiot. Ask yourself this: Am I going to stop watching the premiership because one player is missing? Didn’t think so.
    What the Saints have done is no more harmful to the league than an injury, or resting a key player against a weaker side. Two things that happen very regularly, don’t see fines for them though. It’s also worth reminding yourself that Northampton play the might of Worcester this weekend, with upcoming games against Wasps, Bath and Quins. So there was a pretty good chance North wasn’t going to feature this weekend anyway, regardless of internationals.

    It would be interesting to know North’s exact thought process and standards prior to signing for the Saints.
    Who knows, perhaps if Northampton didn’t add this clause, North wouldn’t have signed for them. Far better to miss him for one week than to not have him at at all. That would really be a loss of value to the premiership.

    I just can’t help but feel this is a mountain made from a mole hill, a complete non issue for me. If the Saints put themselves at a slight disadvantage by honouring a contract, then fine. Personally I think there are far more pressing issues that devalue the premiership considerably more, such as Cockerill’s antics and Worcester’s humiliating form.
    And I’m a Tigers supporter.

  7. Should and shouldn’t be punished!

    Firstly this is not an employment matter. Northampton have released their player in line with his contract.

    They should be punished as it is a direct breach of their contract with Premier Rugby. They knew that and entered both that contract and the players eyes wide open. They made a commercial decision to sign North, because it would make their club more money by having another draw player and increase their chances of finishing higher up the table leading to better sponsorship and prize money. They knew they were breaching their contract with PR and would have taken this into account in their assessment of North’s worth. The PR brand becomes weaker through not having him for that game.

    However they shouldn’t be punished on the other hand as actually over the season the PR brand is stronger through having him on the pitch for the rest of the season and it is Northampton’s loss not to have him for this game.

    To my mind, the agreement for the release of players with England is another matter. Maybe all England players when renewing their contracts with PR clubs should consider a release clause. That way they lose out on club remuneration, but England don’t have to pay the clubs so much for release and can pay the players more. This doesn’t work for bolters during a season though so maybe as is, is better.

  8. Northampton need to be punished – they flouted a league rule, deliberately, and you can’t have clubs doing that. It may seem a stupid rule to some but you can’t let clubs just ignore the rules they don’t like otherwise there would be anarchy. Fine them heavily and let’s move on.

  9. It seems a strange time to be worrying about the minutia of one player when 276 players will be sitting idle on the 6 European weekends as things currently stand.

    Given they have tackled it however then there are 2 separate issues:

    1) Should there be a penalty for breaking a rule? Yes otherwise everyone will break every rule if it’s consequence free.

    2) Is it a good rule? I can see both sides to this. If foreign internationals can go and play whenever they want/are called then how can PRL argue that releasing players to England should come with any value/compensation? I do think the premiership is better for including genuine world class talent (like North) and they should amend the rule so that each team can have one exception (a bit like the salary cap).

    1. Like that last idea.

      Amend the PRL/RFU agreement, so the ‘Marquee’ player, the one outside the cap, can be released, but none other. Then smack Saints’ wrists, the way Glos were a few years ago, and move on. Such a concession wouldn’t significantly damage PRL’s ability to negotiate access to the RFU’s millions!

  10. There shouldn’t be a punishment for allowing players to represent their country if they are selected and want to do so. Not like the saints will be lost without him. He is a great player but Northampton have others. They played good before him. North should support wales when required. We would be fuming if people like Wood, Lawes, Farrell and the rest were not released for us.

    1. England wouldn’t be in that situation with English based players because of the EPS agreement with the clubs to get players as and when they need them. Other players have already been told they’re not in the squad because of the difficulty of assuring their availability.

      The problem here is not Wales, it is not North, it is not PRL. The problem is that Northampton have signed two agreements that are mutually exclusive, one to not release players outside of the test window that are not in the England EPS and the other to release George North outside of the test window.

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