Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Rugby decimated by ‘toughest decision in game’s history’

Three in four Rugby Australia staff members have been stood down for three months as the game faces a crippling $120 million loss in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Staff were told of their fate on Tuesday, and will no longer be required to work until at least June 30 in what was described as "the toughest decision in the game's history".

"Rugby Australia has made the toughest decision in the game's history which will see 75 per cent of its workforce stood down from April 1 through June 30, while remaining staff have been offered significant salary reductions or reduced hours as a result of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis," a statement said.


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"Following the suspension of the Vodafone Super Rugby season after just seven rounds as a result of Government-imposed travel restrictions, Rugby Australia also suspended its plans (until at least May 1) to launch a five-team domestic competition given the advice of the Government's health experts.

"The game is projecting a worst-case scenario of up to $120m million loss in revenue should the Super Rugby season and the entire Wallabies domestic Test calendar be cancelled as a result of the virus."

RA held a conference call with players' union RUPA to advise them of the job cuts, and will work out a deal in coming days for how much Australia's 192 professional players will have to sacrifice to keep the game alive.

RA staff were left devastated by the news.

"Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hardworking and passionate staff, that many of them will be stood down for a three-month period so that the game can survive this unprecedented crisis," RA chief executive Raelene Castle said.


Stars to take pay cuts. Picture: AAP
Stars to take pay cuts. Picture: AAP


"We welcome the announcement from Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg yesterday regarding the Job Keeper payment and we will work closely with all our staff to ensure they can access whatever government support is available over the coming months.

"Since the suspension of our proposed domestic Super Rugby competition, we have been working to understand both the immediate and long-term financial implications for the game as a result of the suspension of the competition, and potential further loss of revenue-generating content as we look ahead to the international season.

"Our extensive modelling shows that as a code, we could lose up to $120 million in revenue should it not be possible for any Rugby to be played in 2020. Of course, that is the worst case scenario, and we are very hopeful that we can recommence the Super Rugby season and domestic Wallabies Test matches at some point this year.


Wallabies players will also be forced to take a wage cut. Picture: Darren England.
Wallabies players will also be forced to take a wage cut. Picture: Darren England.


"The measures we will implement from April 1, although extremely painful, are necessary to ensure the sport remains financially viable and to ensure that we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully-operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild. It is our priority to keep all of our valued team connected and engaged through this period.

"We shared with the Rugby Union Players Association today the breadth of our cost-cutting including the standing down of 75 per cent of our staff. We will work closely with RUPA to reach an agreement which is appropriate given this unprecedented situation.

"We remain in close dialogue with World Rugby and the Australian Government around potential support for our game and are working side-by-side with our Member Unions with their State and Territory Governments to unlock some additional potential support to ensure, first and foremost, that we can continue to run our community Rugby competitions after this coronavirus issue has finally abated.


The Super Rugby season could be sacrificed. Picture: AAP
The Super Rugby season could be sacrificed. Picture: AAP


"Not only have our Super Rugby organisations made deep sacrifices, our smaller State and Territory-based Unions that are largely volunteer-run have also made significant contributions to ensure the game can go on.

"I want to pay tribute to each and every member of staff across our Rugby organisations and once again stress that once we get through this crisis, and we will, Rugby will be back stronger than ever. All staff on stand down will have continued access to Rugby Australia support services during this time."

Castle has taken a 50 per cent salary reduction of her annual $840,000 wage, and her remaining 15-team executive staff across the game at least a 30 per cent salary reduction.

All RA board directors have agreed to defer their director's fees.

Further severe cuts are expected to be announced soon regarding Australia's four Super Rugby franchises.

Originally published as Rugby decimated by 'toughest decision in game's history'