Rugby Australia slashes over 40% staff; more pressure on CA reel under

Novel coronavirus is taking a severe toll on sports bodies in Australia. After Cricket Australia had furloughed 80% of its staff to overcome the financial deficit, the rugby governing body Down Under has axed more than 40% of their staff to overcome the financial woes.

Interim Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke the body “we will be reducing our full-time headcount by 47 people. We will be reducing our contractors and casuals by over 30 people and taking $5.5 million out of the annual salary bill of Rugby Australia.

“It’s over 30 per cent of the full-time staff. If you include the contractors and casuals, it’s well over 40 per cent. I take it very seriously because it’s impacting people’s lives and family’s lives. So, it’s something that we must do very responsibly, but I did think it was necessary, and the board supported that.”

Earlier, KPMG had signed off on Rugby Australia’s books for the last financial year, with the help of an Australian $6.9 million loan from HSBC Bank.

“We are working with a coalition of major professional participation sports to secure some form of [government] relief, along with NRL, AFL, cricket, tennis, netball, but otherwise our books are clean and I feel that the future is bright,” has quoted Clarke as saying.

Rugby Australia had spent more than A$1.8 billion over the last two decades, only to see the national team’s world ranking slump from second to around seventh and a 4% decline in Super Rugby viewership.

“I agree. We have been number one in the past and where we sit today is not where we want to be,” said Clarke. “So that is a focus of our high-performance team under Scott Johnson and new coach Dave Rennie.”

However, former Wallaby and president of the Eastwood Rugby Club, Brett Papworth, said there had been too much focus on elite forms of the game, citing reports that RA spent $19 million on corporate costs and only $4.3 million on community rugby.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said the body faces a A$80m ($53.2m) shortfall due to the pandemic. It looks unlikely to host the Twenty20 World Cup during October-November this year as planned, which will cost it around A$20m.

Roberts said there would be a A$50m blow from not having crowds attend games this summer and the organisation will spend around A$10m on biosecurity measures to ensure international teams can play in Australia.

CA’s financial position will improve with India’s four-test tour after the World Cup, worth an estimated A$300m if given the green light. “We have made a commitment to significantly reduce the cost base of Cricket Australia, unfortunately that means that no area of the organisation will be untouched,” Roberts said. “It’s premature to talk about the detail of those plans, that will come in the not-too-distant future.”

CA has already furloughed about 80 per cent of its workforce, while state associations have also made deep staff cuts in recent weeks.

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