Rugby Australia swings axe in ‘unprecedented’ $120m crisis

Raelene Castle has described Rugby Australia's job cuts as the 'toughest decision' she's had to make. Pic: Getty

Three quarters of Rugby Australia's (RA) staff will be stood down for the next three months and the remainder retained on drastically reduced salaries as the code braces for a $120 million hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle announced what was described as "the toughest decision in the game's history" on Tuesday after meeting with Rugby Australia Players' Association boss Justin Harrison.

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Castle, who will take a 50 per cent pay cut, said she'll ensure staff stood down would have access to "whatever government support is available" and that they were working closely with the RUPA to reach an "appropriate" agreement on player salary reductions.

She said additional help from World Rugby and individual state governments would also ensure grassroots rugby could continue once it is safe to return to the field.

"Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hard-working 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," she said.

"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.

"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."

The announcement comes a day after RA reported a provisional loss of $9.4 million in 2019 and hours after USA Rugby were forced to file for bankruptcy when their financial woes were exacerbated by the coronavirus shutdown.

RA had last week announced a makeshift five-team domestic competition featuring a Western Australian team when international travel restricted normal Super Rugby fixtures.

That was swiftly postponed until at least May 1, with a think tank now set to be formed to assess what professional rugby may look like in Australia in the short and long-term future.

Castle said there would be a professional game in 2021 and her main focus was on the next three months and keeping RA, Super Rugby teams and other member unions financially viable.

CEO defends her own 50 percent pay cut

The RA CEO defended her 50 percent pay cut, despite the fact she will still pocket more than $400,000 in annual income.

"All these things will be discussed on a monthly basis," Castle said on Monday.

"I think that's a pretty good start point to set an example around how important I think this issue is."

She said new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hadn't featured in pay cut discussions as he hadn't started the job yet.

Castle said it was highly unlikely that the three July home Tests would go ahead.

The RA CEO said there was a possibility down the track of either grant or loan assistance from the federal government and World Rugby.

She said RA was still getting revenue from different areas, including broadcasting sponsorship and government.

Castle said he 2021 calendar could look different to what was currently planned.

"At the moment we've got contracts in place around delivering a Super Rugby structure, with four teams, and that's the model that we'll be working to,"' she said.' .

"But it would be crazy for us not to be thinking about other scenarios that might roll out, be that domestic, international or the SANZAAR product."

with Yahoo Sport staff