The International Rugby Football Board’s declaration on 27 August 1995 to legalise professionalism was the final hurdle in the 100-year battle between the ethos, values and practices of amateurism and the increasing encroachment of professionalism within the game. Nevertheless, the declaration did not specify the parameters within which ‘open’ professionalism would work and, in consequence, the changes involved did not come without complications. In the southern hemisphere, the SANZAR announcement gave the national unions the opportunity to prepare the clubs, players and administrators for professionalism. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa responded immediately by signing their leading players on contracts, which ensured that they had priority over clubs or regions for their services. The introduction of professionalism and contracts for players represented a new development within rugby union and transformed relationships between club and member predicated on the amateur ethos to a contracted relationship between club as ‘employer’ and player as ‘employee’ and consequently it led to serious problems that were not resolved for a number of years. Specifically, the chapter is organised around the following themes:

Consumption and identity within rugby union

The development of professional leagues and competitions

The profile of the international game

The players’ voice – experiences, expectations and consequences