Leaner times, difficult conversations ahead for rugby, says Rugby Australia boss Castle
MELBOURNE – Rugby Australia (RA) chief Raelene Castle says players can expect to face further pay cuts in the longer term as the game adjusts to tougher financial conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
RA and the players' union announced on Monday they had agreed to a 60% average pay cut for the country's 192 professionals up to the end of September to keep rugby afloat during the global sporting shutdown.
With rugby's resumption dependent on the lifting of travel restrictions and border controls, New Zealander Castle said existing contracts would be honoured but forecast leaner deals in future given the financial impact of the new coronavirus.
"I don't think there's a player or a player agent that works in rugby across the world that thinks that all contracts, particularly long-term contracts, will necessarily be delivered at the values they were delivered previously," Castle told reporters in a video conference on Tuesday.
"This is a conversation that's going to affect players at every sporting competition and RA will be no different. But as far as the baseline contracts (are concerned), yes, we're absolutely going to honour those."
Monday's pay deal, along with previously announced cuts at head office, has given RA six months of financial certainty, even with minimal revenue being generated.
Super Rugby has been suspended indefinitely and there is little prospect of the Wallabies' scheduled July internationals against Ireland and Fiji going ahead.
If the shutdown drags into the second half of the year it could prove disastrous for RA, who have forecast a A$120 million ($75.58 million) hit to their finances if the entire season is wiped out.
RA underlined the seriousness of their plight in late-March when the board revealed they were unable to sign off on their 2019 accounts and had sought advice on insolvency protections.
Castle said the 2019 accounts would be signed off within three weeks and that RA was confident in its plans to avoid undertaking voluntary administration.
The governing body are also hopeful of receiving financial assistance from World Rugby, who have pledged $100 million to help struggling rugby nations, and the Australian government.
Despite calls from pundits for a change of management, Castle said she was determined to see RA through the crisis, though she offered few details on what Super Rugby and the international schedule may look like in the second half of 2020.
RA's hopes of securing a new broadcast deal for 2021 and beyond are also on the back-burner.
"Whatever model ends up being in place, we need to make sure that we can have success on the world stage in men’s and women’s (teams) and Olympics but also with the recognition that the world’s not the way it was," she said.
"So there is going to be reduced revenues coming in and ultimately we’re going to have to ... cut our cloth to match our revenues so there is absolutely some difficult conversations that need to be had."Reuters