Rugby Australia lays off 75% of staff as huge losses loom

Raelene Castle (Getty)
Raelene Castle (Getty)

Three-quarters of Rugby Australia's (RA) staff were on Tuesday laid off until 1 July as the governing body predicted huge financial losses from the sport's coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

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RA chief executive Raelene Castle described the cuts as "the toughest decision in the game's history" but said they were necessary to help it survive.

"Although extremely painful, (they) 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," she said.

Castle, who will take a 50 percent cut to her US$500 000-plus salary, said the sport had been hit hard by the suspension of the Super Rugby season after just seven rounds.

Other executives and remaining staff have been offered salary reductions of up to 30 percent and reduced working hours.

Castle said a worst-case scenario, in which the entire season was lost along with Wallabies Tests against Ireland and Fiji, would cost the governing body AUS$120 million ($74 million) in revenue.

RA, she added, was in discussions with the Australian government and World Rugby about potential financial support.

Rugby has ground to a halt in Australia and elsewhere around the world, depriving clubs of much-needed ticket sales and broadcast money.

RA on Monday posted a near Aus$10 million ($6 million) deficit, exacerbated by a hefty payment to former Wallaby Israel Folau after his sacking over homophobic social media posts.

Castle said talks were under way with the Rugby Union Players Association over a deal on player payments which will reportedly involve cuts of 30 to 50 percent.

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