This article looks at the salaries of Munster rugby players.
It’s important to acknowledge that player salaries are private contracts. The province or the IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union) don’t publish the details.
However, Ireland is a small country and the rugby circles are even smaller. It’s not too hard to gather numbers from good sources.
How Do Munster Rugby Players Get Paid?
Let’s start by taking a look at how the players are paid. It’s not just through monthly wages from the province.
Their full salary comes from different streams of income:
- Monthly club wages
- Win bonuses
- Endorsements and brand deals
- Image rights
- International caps
- British & Irish Lions (every four years)
Who Pays The Munster Players?
Munster Rugby pays the monthly wages and bonuses for most players in the squad.
A small number of star players are contracted directly to the IRFU. These contracts are significantly higher than provincial contracts. I’ll get into the numbers later.
Munster has three players on a central contract:
- Keith Earls
- Conor Murray
- Peter O’Mahony
An even smaller number of top earners have part of their salaries paid by third parties who want to support the province. This also has to be approved by the IRFU.
The two big South African signings are in this category i.e. lock RG Snyman and center Damian de Allende. It’s also thought that Simon Zebo has third-party support.
Sponsorships And Image Deals
Image rights are paid by third parties who want to use player photos in their advertising.
You’ll have seen some players featured in advertising from huge brands like sporting retailers or aftershave.
But plenty of players are from small towns and villages around the province. If you drive through some smaller towns, you’ll see images of local players in local advertising.
Of course, this brings in smaller amounts of income.
I have vague memories of a Munster captain tweeting his strong appreciation for a local mattress company!
What Is The Average Salary Of A Munster Player?
The average salary for Munster Rugby players is about €85K for senior players who don’t also play internationally.
The most senior non-internationals earn up to €120K.
Young players in their first year on a full contract earn about €40K.
Academy players earn about €8-12K.
These are average salaries but the star players are on significantly higher amounts, as I show in the next section.
As I mentioned in an earlier section, the well-known senior players can also garner endorsements and image licensing from third-party brands.
That can top up annual earnings by twenty to thirty thousand euro.
How Have Covid Restrictions Impacted Salaries?
The 2020/21 domestic season was shortened due to Covid restrictions. Match attendances were also curtailed.
TV revenue was reduced due to fewer matches. The drop in gate receipts also hit the income of the provinces.
Munster players agreed to take pay cuts ranging from 20 to 40 percent.
The cuts only applied to players making over €25K. That makes academy players exempt. The higher earners took the top 40% cut.
This article uses the averages and reported salaries of more normal times.
You can mentally reduce the figures in this article in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
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Who Are The Highest Paid Munster Players?
Two Munster players are earning €500K or more in recent years.
Conor Murray is reputedly the highest-earning Irish player at Munster. His IRFU central contract is reputedly worth €550K.
The IRFU is known to be fairly hard-nosed when it comes to contract negotiations. But it seems that Peter O’Mahony simply stares his employers down. Good for him!
The back row is reportedly on €500K.
Other players with higher than average salaries
Given that the senior salary range goes up to about €120K, which players are at the higher levels?
Esportif publishes statistics for which positions earn the most in the PRO 14 (now the URC). Here’s the top-to-bottom list:
- #1 outhalf
- #2 locks
- #3 tight head prop
- #4 fullback
- #5 wings
- #6 blind side flanker
- #7 number eight
- #8 scrum half
- #9 outside center
- #10 inside center
- #11 loose head prop
- #12 openside flanker
- #13 hooker
We can expect young out-half Joey Carberry to be above this top range, as he’s on a central contract. The same goes for Keith Earls.
Simon Zebo covers both the fullback and the wing position. And he’s box office when at his best. He’ll be on the higher end of the range.
Who are the lower earners?
It’s interesting that openside flankers and hookers are at the bottom of this list.
Peter O’Mahony bucks the trend, but he regularly switches between blind and openside.
I’m not sure why hookers aren’t valued higher. But I will point out that rival provinces Ulster and Leinster have cornered the position for Ireland in the last few years.
That would suggest that the Munster hookers don’t have as strong a hand when negotiating their provincial contracts.
Does Munster Have A Salary Cap?
You may have heard of salary caps in English and French clubs.
There isn’t a similar concept in Ireland. This is due to how rugby is organized here.
I’ll summarize here by saying that all Munster contracts must be approved by the IRFU. This includes bringing in star overseas players.
The IRFU doesn’t allow the provinces to compete for Irish players by offering higher salaries.
That means there isn’t the kind of club pay wars that happened in England and Australia before they brought in salary caps.
How Much Do Munster Players Get For Playing For Ireland?
Check out our article how much Ireland rugby players are paid.
I’ll summarize here to say that match fees are about €9K.
There are also significantly higher win bonuses for winning international tournaments.
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.
Two Munster players got a top-up from the Lions in South Africa: Tadhg Beirne and Conor Murray.
If the Lions had won the 2021 series in South Africa, the duo would have received a £10,000 bonus. Unfortunately, they came home without the extras!