Player Status & Contracts

News : Get Ready - New Player Payment Rules in 2020/21

Scottish Rugby’s player payment rules will be changing for next season. In particular all clubs below the Premiership should note that from Season 2020/21:

  • They will no longer be able to pay or provide Material Benefits to any player;
  • Player/Coaches will be permitted, but within limits and with no payment for the "playing" aspect of the role; and
  • Certain incidental expenses will be permitted, but again within strict limits.

The changes to the player payment rules are in line with the Report and Recommendations of the Standing Committee on Governance issued in January 2019.

- Governance Report : Player Payment Recommendation

In view of the above SDR 4.1 is being revised. An updated draft of the Regulation has been posted on the Consultation section of the Scottish Rugby website here.

For further information on the above please contact Scottish Rugby’s Head of Regulation, Graham Ireland ([email protected], 0131 346 5004).

The World Rugby Regulation

Whilst for the majority rugby remains a leisure activity, subject to any local rules, the game is “open” and players may be paid to play rugby union. World Rugby operates an enhanced regulatory regime with respect to those players who receive payment to play, details of which are set out in WR Regulation 4 Player Status, Player Contracts and Player Movement. Scottish Rugby is obliged to comply with this WR Regulation.

Scottish Rugby’s Regulation

The World Rugby Regulation requires individual Unions to put in place their own domestic regulations with respect to the matters it covers. Scottish Rugby’s rules on Player Status and Player Contracts are set out in Scottish Domestic Regulation 4.1 Player Status and Player Contracts (SDR 4.1).

Under this domestic regulation those players receiving material financial benefit from playing are defined as Scottish Contract Players,and clubs must register any such playing contract.

  • Scottish domestic regulation SDR 4.1

    1. The Scottish Rugby Union (“Scottish Rugby”) acknowledges that it is obliged to comply with those Regulations Relating to the Game issued from time to time by World Rugby (WR).

    2. Scottish Rugby recognises that World Rugby has issued a specific Regulation in respect of the Player Status, Player Contracts and Player Movement (WR Regulation 4). The Scottish Rugby Board (the “Board”) has adopted WR Regulation 4 within Scottish Rugby’s own domestic regulations.

    3. The Domestic Regulation set out below relates to the Player Status and Player Contracts within Scottish Rugby’s area of jurisdiction. All those within Scottish Rugby’s jurisdiction are required to comply with this Regulation.

    Player Status and Contracts

    4. The game of rugby football is open to all and players may receive Material Benefit (as herein described) in return for playing, always providing the terms of WR Regulation 4 and SDR 4.1 have been complied with.

    5. No player may receive Material Benefit for their participation in the game in Scotland unless the contract to provide such benefit has first been approved by Scottish Rugby.

    6. As a minimum any contract to provide Material Benefit for playing must:

    (i) be in writing;

    (ii) clearly set out the duties and obligations of both parties;

    (iii) be for a defined period; and

    (iv) be signed by both the employing Club and the player.

    7. Players in receipt of Material Benefit under a contract approved by Scottish Rugby shall be regarded as being Scottish Contract Players.

    Provision of Material Benefits

    Definition of Benefit

    8. The definition of Benefit shall be as follows:

    “money, consideration, gifts or any other benefits whatsoever promised or given to a player or any other individual, body corporate, partnership (or any other entity or body whether incorporated or not) at his direction in respect of such player’s participation in the Game, but shall not include bona fide reimbursement of expenses incurred for reasonable travel, accommodation, subsistence or other expenses incurred solely and directly in relation to the Game”

    Materiality Level

    9. Where the aggregate value of Benefits provided in any 12 month period exceeds (or is expected to exceed) £12,000 then the amount shall be considered to be “material” and the player shall be regarded as being in receipt of Material Benefits.

    Expenses to be included in calculation

    10. For the purposes of this Regulation, and in addition to any salary, match fee, bonus payment or the like, the following expenses must be included in the calculation of relevant Benefits:

    10.1 Overseas Travel: Return airfares (or similar) associated with bringing a player and his dependants (where relevant) into the country;

    10.2 Accommodation and Living Expenses: The provision of any accommodation (other than occasional accommodation associated with attendance at away fixtures) and any related living expenses (utility bills, Council Tax, etc.);

    10.3 Motor Vehicle: The cost associated with providing a player with the use of a motor vehicle including, where applicable, the running costs thereof.

    11. Where there is no actual cost to the employer of providing the Benefit, or the Benefit is provided at a cost below the market rate (courtesy of a sponsor, benefactor or otherwise), a notional market value must be substituted in the calculation as to whether the aggregate Benefits are to be considered Material.

    Expenses which may be excluded

    12. For the purposes of this Regulation the following expenses shall be disregarded in the calculation of Material Benefit:

    12.1 Internal Travel: Standard class rail travel, taxi fares and similar receipted travel expenses incurred in respect of necessary travel to and from matches and squad sessions;

    12.2 Mileage: A mileage allowance, based on the HMRC rates, paid in relation to necessary and verifiable travel to and from matches and squad sessions;

    12.3 Meals: up to £15 per calendar day reimbursed to cover the actual cost of food when travelling to and from matches or squad sessions, but only where the total duration involved (travel time plus the session/match, etc.) is greater than 5 hours and catering is not otherwise provided; and

    12.4 Accommodation:Provision of occasional accommodation associated with actual attendance at away fixtures.

    12.5 Playing and Training Kit: Provision of playing and training kit for the personal use of the player.

    Young Players

    13. Whilst the game of rugby football is “open”, Scottish Rugby considers that it has a special duty of care in respect of young players. In this regard:

    13.1 U16 Players: Contracts to provide Material Benefits shall not be offered to players under the age of 16. Educational support payments may be provided providing that they form part of a written agreement and:

    (i) The player is free to terminate the agreement on not more than 30 days notice;

    (ii) In addition to the club and the player, the agreement is signed by the player’s parent / guardian; and

    (iii) The agreement has been approved in advance by Scottish Rugby.

    13.2 16 and 17 Year Olds: Where a contract to provide Material Benefits is offered to a player aged either 16 or 17 then, other than in exceptional circumstances, the agreement shall additionally signed by the player’s parent / guardian.

    Recording of Payments and Benefits

    14. Payments in return for playing services (wages, salary, match fee, performance bonus, etc.) may only be made by a player’s club and may not be made on behalf of the club by any third party. All such player payments, irrespective of materiality, shall be fully and accurately recorded in the club’s accounting records.

    15. Material Benefits provided by the club shall be fully and accurately recorded within the club’s accounting records. Where a third party provides any Material Benefit in return for a player’s participation for a club:

    (i) the provision of the Material Benefit shall first be approved on behalf the club by the Club Committee;

    (ii) a detailed record of any Material Benefit so provided shall be maintained; and

    (iii) the club shall account for any taxable benefit arising.

    16. Expenses paid to players shall be supported by written expense claims which shall form part of the club’s accounting records.

    17. The club shall account for PAYE, NI and any other applicable taxation in accordance with the regulations issued from time to time by HMRC.

    Approaches to Scottish Contract Players

    18. No club may directly or indirectly approach any Scottish Contract Player to induce or attempt to induce such player to leave his club unless such approach is made in the final six months of the term of that player’s contract.

    Disciplinary Matters

    19. Failure to comply with the Regulation shall be an offence subject to potential misconduct proceedings. Such misconduct proceeding shall be separate and in addition to any process conducted in respect of the National Competition Rules.

    20. Any disciplinary procedures arising under the Regulation shall be conducted in accordance with the Misconduct procedures set out within Scottish Rugby’s Rules for Disciplinary Procedures.

Scottish Rugby also has rules on Player Movement and these are set out in SDR 4.2 Clearance to Play in Another Union.

All those within the Scottish Rugby Union’s jurisdiction are required to comply with these Regulations.

Clubs: Recruitment of Non-EU Players

Clubs should remember that their ability to recruit non-EU/EEA players is governed by law and that they must check the visa status of any non-EU/EEA citizen they recruit. This requires examining, reviewing and copying the original documents, considering their validity against the entry criteria and then holding them on file, with identification as to who checked them and when, etc. (Please also see the note below re the status of EU/EEA citizens).

Whilst Scottish Rugby is not able to provide legal advice on immigration / employment law matters, our general understanding of the criteria as follows:

Super 6: For immigration purposes, the Super 6 licensee teams have the equivalent status to Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors. This means that non-EU/EEA players must have either a UK Ancestry or a Tier 2 / Tier 5 Sportsperson's Visa. The Tier 2/5 Sportsperson Visa requirements include a track record playing at international or professional level in a qualifying league (e.g. Super Rugby), and in all cases require completion of a formal Governing Body Endorsement process. Players holding Youth Mobility Scheme, Visitor or Student visas are not entitled to play in the Super 6 even on a wholly amateur basis.

Premiership and National Leagues: Non-EU/EEA players may (subject to the normal National Competition Rules) participate in the Premiership, National and Regional Leagues. However, Clubs must not pay (e.g. match fees, win bonuses, etc.) or provide material benefits (e.g. subsidised flights, accommodation at a cost to the club, etc.) to any player coming to the UK on a Youth Mobility, Visitor, Student, Tier 1 (General) or Tier 2 (General) Visa in return for their participation.

Such individuals are not legally entitled to be paid to play sport in the UK. Such players may only play as an amateur for a predominantly amateur club in a predominantly amateur league. Holders of a EU passport or a UK Ancestry or Spousal Visa may continue to play in any league or division and may be paid and/or employed as appropriate (though see note below re EU/ EEA citizens). We strongly recommend that clubs obtain advice from a suitably qualified expert prior to recruiting any non-EU/EEA player.

Status of EU / EEA Players

The UK is currently in a transition period following its departure from the EU. This transition period runs to 31 December 2020. At the end of this period the rights of EU / EEA citizens may change. Please refer to the UK Government's Home Office website for further information with regard to the transition period and any changes concerning the rights of EU / EEA citizens.

Frequently Asked Questions

The area of Player Status and Player Contracts can be complex. To assist those looking for more information we have prepared a summary of Frequently Asked Questions.

  • Who is covered by the Regulation?

    The Regulation relates only to players – it does not relate to coaches, referees, administrators or others.

  • Why are we required to register player contracts?

    This is required under World Rugby's Regulations.

  • Are we required to register all player contracts?

    No. A club is only required to register contracts where the value (which includes any salary, match fee, bonus and certain expense payments) is expected to exceed £12,000. You may choose to register contracts below this level.

  • Why is registering the contract useful to our club?

    There are two main benefits:

    - Player Disputes : If you are in dispute with a player from another Union we may be able to delay their ability to play elsewhere until the dispute is resolved;

    - “Tapping Up” : Your players under contract should not be approached by another club until there is less than 6 months remaining on their contract.

  • Can’t we simply employ the player in another capacity (e.g. as a Development Officer)?

    This will be determined by the facts. If the individual is undertaking additional duties and is being remunerated for those duties at the appropriate rate for the job then this should be OK : the contract need not be registered. You will need to ensure that any overseas player has the requisite UK entrance requirements to enable him to work in this capacity.

  • Can we pay the player in a second capacity to bring him below £12,000 limit?

    This will again be determined by the facts of the case – is he actually performing duties for you and (if so) is he being paid at an appropriate rate?

  • What are the consequences if we fail to register a contract?

    The Discipline Manager may decide to initiate misconduct proceedings against you and / or your club.

  • Is there anything else to note?

    Yes, please remember that if you are bringing in a player:

    - You will have to comply with the appropriate legislative requirements e.g.

    - The player must have the requisite UK Borders Agency entrance requirements/visa to perform his duties. This may involve applying for a Governing Body Endorsement; and

    - Any payment to the player must comply with HMRC’s requirements.

    You will need to apply for International Clearance (see the Scottish Rugby website)

Contact details

If you can't find the information you're looking for, have a specific query or require assistance please contact please contact Scottish Rugby's Regulatory & Technical Executive, Richard McGhee, at [email protected] or 0131 346 5029.

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