Press Trust of India
Australia’s top rugby players will demand a greater say in the future of the sport after reaching agreement Monday on pay cuts designed to allow the game to weather the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some players reportedly will give up as much as 60 percent of their income in the short term as Australian rugby faces uncertainty with major competitions shut down, perhaps for the rest of the year.
The Rugby Union Players’ Association announced the agreement with Rugby Australia but stressed it was heavily conditional on players being given greater influence in the sport, which was already under financial strain before the virus outbreak.
“Australia’s professional players will play a central role in the short term preservation of the game by accepting a significant reduction in pay in order for necessary transformation to begin,” RUPA said in a statement.
“RUPA’s members understand their part in the game’s immediate future and the responsibility that goes with it. The players have voted as a block in supporting RUPA’s recommendation.” RUPA emphasized the importance of transformation as rugby battles a decline in live and television audiences in Australia’s competitive broadcasting market. Rugby Australia is currently trying to strike a new broadcasting rights deal, which is central to the financial viability of the sport.
Chief executive Raelene Castle is under pressure to retain her position as rugby faces multiple challenges, including a damaged relationship with top players.
“This process has enabled a greater understanding of the need for root and branch reform of the game,” the RUPA said, indicating players’ desire to have an influential role in any discussions on rugby’s future in Australia.
“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.” Professional rugby players around the world have been forced to accept substantial pay cuts to help the sport survive the massive blow delivered by the coronavirus outbreak. The southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby tournament has been indefinitely suspended and Rugby Championships test matches later this year involving Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina are unlikely to go ahead.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont last week expressed doubt that any professional rugby competitions will be able to resume in 2020.
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