Rugby: Australia's players demand change after taking 60% pay cut

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) – Australia’s rugby union players have called for a “root and branch” review of the domestic game after agreeing to a 60 per cent pay cut with governing body Rugby Australia (RA).

The Rugby Union Players’ Association (Rupa) confirmed on Monday (April 20) that players had accepted the terms after weeks of tense negotiations with RA, which is battling to keep the game afloat amid the sport’s global shutdown due to the coronavirus.

“Immediate attention must now turn to the long-term sustainability of the game and this agreement allows the players to make a significant contribution to that,” Rupa chief executive Justin Harrison said in a statement.

“Rupa believes in the need for transformation. This process has enabled a greater understanding of the need for root and branch reform of the game.

“The players will, with others, focus on playing a role in engaging and supporting all levels of rugby from grassroots communities through to the professional level.”

RA said the players would take an average 60 per cent salary reduction through to Sept 30, unless competition resumed earlier.

The Super Rugby season, which involves four Australian teams and others from South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Japan, was suspended mid-March at the end of the seventh round.

The players’ pay cut comes after RA CEO Raelene Castle agreed to a 50 per cent reduction to her salary and furloughed 75 per cent of staff last month.

Executives retained in Castle’s management team have agreed to a 30 per cent pay-cut.

“Sporting organisations around the world are experiencing an unprecedented challenge, as indeed the whole of society is, and rugby is no different as we continue to come to grips with the impacts of the global Covid-19 crisis,” Castle said in a statement.

“This has not been an easy discussion, but it has been a necessary one to ensure that we are able to emerge from the other side of this crisis in the best possible position for the game to move forward.”

The players’ pay cut buys RA some time and will help the governing body absorb losses from the shutdown of Super Rugby and the expected cancellation of international Test matches scheduled mid-year against Ireland and Fiji.

A prolonged shutdown would be disastrous, however, with RA projecting a A$120 million (S$109 million) hit to its finances if unable to schedule any matches in 2020 due to Covid-19.

RA revealed in late-March that their 2019 accounts had yet to be signed off due to the uncertainty, while its board had sought advice on insolvency protections.

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