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Rugby Australia announces massive cut in staff numbers

Rugby Australia announces massive cut in staff numbers
June 2, 2020

In a move to stave off insolvency, Rugby Australia has announced that it is to cut 47 of its full-time staff - representing more than 40% of its employees.

Citing ongoing financial troubles, further impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive, Rob Clarke told the ABC yesterday that staff cuts at the governing body were expected to be concluded on Monday by telephone.

Clarke advised “we will be reducing our full-time headcount by 47 people (as well as) reducing our contractors and casuals by over 30 people and taking $5.5 million out of the annual salary bill of Rugby Australia.”

Advising that over 30% of the full-time staff and, with inclusion of contractors and casuals, over 40% of staff are being terminated, Clarke explained "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."

Stating that he feels that rugby union in Australia still has a bright future, Clarke went on to say “it's a challenging future right now, as most businesses, and certainly sports, are going through COVID.

"That said, I think that provides a nice opportunity.

"'Why waste a crisis' is a common phrase, and I think it actually relates to what we have in front of us now."

The job losses come after KPMG signed off on Rugby Australia's books for the last financial year, with the help of a $6.9 million loan from HSBC Bank.

Clarke added “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.”

Having ended its $57 million broadcasting deal with Foxtel, the sport is now looking for a new broadcast partner.

As reported by the ABC, Rugby Australia spent more than $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 42% fall in Super Rugby viewership.

Rugby Australia has also highlighted that it wants to establish a quarantine hub to exclusively host the Rugby Championship if the tournament is staged following the sport's Coronavirus shutdown.

Rugby Australia is in discussions with the Federal Government - as well as its SANZAAR partners, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina - with a view to holding a condensed version of the Rugby Championship this year.

Clarke is reported to also be seeking to lock in an expanded four-Test Bledisloe Cup series with the All Blacks.

Commenting that having matches played again in Australia as soon as possible, including a five-team domestic Super Rugby tournament set to begin next month, pending approval from broadcasters, Clarke added "we're exploring whether there can be a 'bubble' here in Australia and we fly in all of the SANZAAR partners.

"They (could be) in a training bubble and then we can quarantine effectively and play a competition."

The domestic competition would run into September, after which Rugby Australia is looking at scheduling the Bledisloe Cup and the Rugby Championship, which was originally planned to start in August.

Image: Captain Michael Hooper leads out the Wallabies in 2019.

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