This article looks at the salaries of London Irish rugby players in the English Premiership.
You probably know that individual salaries are private contracts and the full details are rarely made public by the club.
However, several companies associated with players publish annual statistics and other details. So, we can identify the wage ranges and have a good estimate of the salaries of the star players.
How Do London Irish Rugby Players Get Paid?
Let’s take a look first at how the players earn their total income. It’s not just through monthly paycheques from London Irish rugby club.
Their entire wage is made up of different income streams:
- Monthly wages from London Irish RFC
- Win bonuses for Premiership matches
- Endorsements, brand deals, and sponsorships
- Image rights
- Playing for England (or other countries)
- Playing for the British & Irish Lions
London Irish pick up the tab for the monthly salary and bonuses.
Endorsements and brand deals from external companies are valued at very different amounts across players, so I won’t go into these.
This article focuses on salaries from London Irish and by England.
Image and brand deals
Image rights are paid by external companies who license the rights to use player images in their brand advertising.
This could involve huge brands (e.g. sports) or smaller or local companies. If you live near London Irish home grounds, you may see the faces of less well-known players in local adverts.
More senior players have agents to find and negotiate sponsorship and endorsement deals with outside companies.
Younger players starting out in their club career might rely on their father or another relative.
How Have Covid Restrictions Impacted Salaries?
The 2020/21 Premiership season was shortened due to Covid restrictions. Match attendances were also curtailed.
TV revenue was reduced due to the shorter season. The drop in gate receipts also hit club income.
London Irish players agreed to take a 25% pay cut across the roster. The club also negotiated with the highest-paid players to take further pay cuts.
This article uses the averages and reported salaries of more normal times. You can mentally reduce the figures by a quarter in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
What Is The Average Salary Of A London Irish Rugby Player?
The average salary for London Irish rugby players is about £120K for senior players.
Young London Irish players in their first year on a full contract earn about £40K. This will double within the next few years.
Academy players earn between £15-25K depending on their academy year.
These are average salaries but the star players are on significantly higher amounts, as I show in the next section.
However, clubs must keep their whole budget underneath the agreed salary cap for the league.
Who Are The Highest Paid London Irish Rugby Players?
While the average salary for players is £120K, the range for middle-ranking players is from £70K to £140K.
The marquee players can earn over £400K. But who are the marquee players?
Flyhalf Paddy Jackson is the highest-earning player at London Irish. His contract was reputed to be £500K per year.
His fellow Irishman, flanker Sean O’Brien, is reputed to be on £400K per annum.
Australian scrum-half Nick Phipps has a reported salary of £230K.
Clubs can nominate two marquee players whose salaries are excluded from the salary cap (more on this later). So, the salary of one of this trio must be counted when London Irish reports the total of their roster wages to the RFU.
Other players in the higher salary range
Given that the salary range for senior players is from £70K to £140K, who is at the top of the range?
Esportif publishes statistics for which positions earn the most in the Premiership. These are the top six:
- Fly half
- Locks (either 4 or 5)
- Outside centre
- Tighthead prop
We can expect that the experienced South African tighthead prop Marcel Van Der Merwe is at the top of the range at the £140K level.
Argentinian Augustin Creevy is a big name, but hooker is one of the lower paid positions in rugby.
English Premiership Salary Cap
English Premiership clubs are not allowed to exceed an agreed cap on the total salaries for their squad.
Clubs get extra credits for players that they bring through from their academy to a full professional contract.
They also get credits for players who are capped by England.
How Much Do London Irish Rugby Get For Representing England?
The England squad collectively agreed to a reduction in match fees during the COVID period.
In more usual times, the match fee is about £23K for players who are selected in the 23-man squad for a match.
Players don’t get paid just for being called into camp. So if you see a promising London Irish youngster has joined an England training camp, don’t assume that they’re getting an immediate bump in income.
In the 2021 Autumn internationals, London Irish were in an unusual situation of not having any players in the England squad.
If you want a more detailed review, read our article on how much England rugby players make. It includes detailed comparisons to salaries in other countries.
What about selection for the British And Irish Lions?
The tour that comes around every four years is a good bump to a player’s salary that year. The 2021 tour paid £75K to the squad members.
If the Lions had won the 2021 series in South Africa, the players would have received a £10,000 bonus.
Sadly, the Lions lost the series. And there were no London Irish players in the squad (maybe that was the problem!).
How Does London Irish Rugby Afford High Salaries?
You may be wondering if the gate receipts are enough to cover these types of salaries. The answer is that they’re not.
The club shared in a one-off payment to all Premiership clubs in 2018 when they agreed to sell a minority stakeholding to the investment company CVC.
The club also has a wealthy majority shareholder who has invested in the infrastructure and the players. You can read more in our article on who owns London Irish Rugby.