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Covid-19: New Zealand Rugby slashes salaries as sport reels from virus

Filed on April 1, 2020
The All Blacks may not be able to take the field this year, New Zealand Rugby warned. -- AFP

New Zealand's emergency measures come after England, Scotland and Wales all cut pay for top officials, and follow Rugby Australia's decision to temporarily lay off three-quarters of its workers.

New Zealand Rugby slashed wages for all staff and warned of up to NZ$100 million (US$60 million) in lost revenue Wednesday as leading governing bodies scrambled to absorb the blows of the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand's emergency measures come after England, Scotland and Wales all cut pay for top officials, and follow Rugby Australia's decision to temporarily lay off three-quarters of its workers.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said that in a worst-case scenario the All Blacks -- the top-ranked Test team and three-time world champions -- and the country's five Super Rugby teams would not play again this year.

He said NZR needed to staunch cash outflows and staff had agreed to a 40 percent pay cut for the next three months, with talks underway with players.

"It's an incredibly challenging time, we have fantastic rugby people all around the country at the moment dealing with difficult financial circumstances," Robinson told reporters.

The southern hemisphere's Super Rugby season has been suspended and July internationals are also in doubt after the coronavirus prompted tough containment measures and curbed international travel.

The annual Rugby Championship, featuring New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, is scheduled to start in August.

Robinson said he had been in contact with the global governing body World Rugby about the prospect of NZR receiving financial support.

"They're going through a process of gathering as much information as they can, once they digest that I'd imagine they'll come back to us with some ideas," he said.

NZR said it had made emergency grants of NZ$250,000 to each of New Zealand's Super Rugby clubs to tide them over for the next three months.

"These decisions are about protecting the core capability of the Super Rugby clubs so that they are ready to hit the ground running if Super Rugby resumes later this year," he said.

New Zealand's cuts came after Scotland announced a 25 percent salary deferral for their coach, Gregor Townsend, and Wales's Wayne Pivac reduced his wages by the same figure.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has taken a 25 percent pay deferral
Townsend's deferral, covering April 1 to September 1, will also apply to Edinburgh boss Richard Cockerill and Glasgow counterpart Dave Rennie, as well as Scottish Rugby Union performance director Jim Mallinder.

Rennie, however, is set to leave in June to become the coach of Australia.

SRU chief executive Mark Dodson, one of the highest paid administrators in the game, will have a salary deferral of 30 percent from April 1 to September 1.

Scottish Rugby Board chairman Colin Grassie said: "We are working extremely hard to navigate the sport of rugby in Scotland through these extremely challenging times.

"We will leave no stone left unturned to ensure the long-term sustainability of Scottish Rugby."

Just hours after the Scottish announcement, Pivac and Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips said they would take 25 per cent salary reductions from April 1.

The WRU had already cancelled all league and cup competitions in Wales for the rest of the season, and later on Tuesday the SRU announced its 2019/20 domestic season had been annulled.

Last week, England's Eddie Jones -- the highest paid coach in international rugby -- and other top officials took a 25 percent pay cut for up to three months.

And on Tuesday, Rugby Australia put 75 percent of its staff on unpaid leave, in what chief executive Raelene Castle called "the toughest decision in the game's history".


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