Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Lions players set to cash in on Tour jackpot

The British and Irish Lions players will share a jackpot of up to £2.5m if they win all 10 matches of their tour of Australia next summer.

Under the draft player contract, which is expected to be signed off with the players' unions in the next couple of months, each player will receive a basic tour fee of £45,000, which will rise to £68,000 if the Lions win all of their matches, including three Tests against the Wallabies.

With Gatland expected to take a party of at least 35 players, the combined basic tour will cost a minimum of £1.5m, rising to a likely maximum of nearly £2.5m depending on the accumulation of win bonuses. The basic tour fee represents an 18pc increase on the fee of £38,000 that was paid for the tour of South Africa in 2009.

The four rugby unions, meanwhile, are to receive a fee of £50,000 for each player they provide to the squad as compensation for their unavailability for each country's summer tours, which will cost the Lions a further £1.7m.

The overall cost of the tour is estimated at £14m, including a seven-figure sum for player insurance, but the Lions board are understood to be hopeful a profit of over £4m can be generated through sponsorship, television rights and ticket sales. The profit will be shared between the four home unions, which should ensure a further seven-figure pay-out, which would make next year's tour the most successful in commercial terms since the Lions began touring 125 years ago.

Gatland's appointment as the 2013 British and Irish Lions coach, which was belatedly confirmed in London yesterday, was about as sure a thing as a bet on Frankel.

The Lions committee made their decision after Gatland had led Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup and to a second Six Nations Grand Slam in four years.

Lions manager Andy Irvine had no qualms appointing a New Zealander to the top job, arguing Gatland had earned his “badge of honour” as part of the 2009 coaching team in South Africa.

“It's a massive honour,” Gatland said. “I'm well aware of the potential criticism; that it should have been someone who is British or Irish, and I understand that. But I see myself as being a bit different to that.

“I've been coaching in the northern hemisphere for 23 years — on and off since 1989. I've lived and coached in Ireland, I've lived and coached in London, in England, and now I'm living and working in Wales.

“That has given me a great insight, culturally and an understanding. New Zealand is still claiming me as a New Zealand coach, but all my coaching has been done in the northern hemisphere. I'd like to think that's given me a very rounded experience.”

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