The Blues and Chiefs have joined the Crusaders in making staff redundancies as the New Zealand franchises continue to grapple with the financial effects of the coronavirus.
In statements to the Herald, both northern franchises confirmed the cuts had been necessary despite emergency funding of $250,000 to each of the five franchises from New Zealand Rugby. Like many other businesses in New Zealand, the franchises have also taken up the offer of government support.
The final round of Super Rugby was played on the weekend of March 14-15 before the competition was suspended. Only seven rounds have been played this season and the franchises have suffered through a lack of gate takings and corporate opportunities.
The Hurricanes and Highlanders have said they have not yet cut staff numbers.
As New Zealand continues to curtail the transmission of the coronavirus and loosen the restrictions on gatherings and professional sport – the Government has signalled that professional sport could be possible in alert level two (just over three weeks away at least) – there is hope on the horizon for the Kiwi franchises. However, even should a domestic Super Rugby competition start in the middle of the year the financial implications will be long lasting.
NZ Rugby’s staff have taken a pay cut of 20 per cent and the five franchises have also asked staff to take a short-term salary reduction. New Zealand’s top players have also agreed to big pay cuts.
“This is a really challenging time for all involved and we are working alongside New Zealand Rugby and the other four Super Rugby Clubs to ensure we are in a position to resume Super Rugby,” Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins said.
“We along with a number of business have utilised the Government’s wage subsidy for our staff. However, we have had to make changes to our organisational structure due to the impact of Covid-19. Unfortunately this has impacted some of our staff, and as a result some fantastic and talented people have been affected.”
Blues chief executive Andrew Hore said: “As with all businesses in New Zealand in these unprecedented times, we have had to look at all areas of our finances in order to remain as a viable operation.
“This involves our staffing levels where we have made some redundancies which remain private employment matters. We have also made adjustments in salaries with the heartfelt support from our staff, who have also pruned expenditure in most aspects of our business.
“We are appreciative of the remarkable and positive contribution and support from our staff.”
The staff cuts are likely to be made to the administration rather than playing side of the franchises; in other words, commercial or marketing teams rather than coaching or management teams.
Highlanders general manager of rugby Greg O’Brien said: “At this stage there are no redundancies at the Highlanders as a result of the covid situation however as has been previously reported our staff have taken a salary reduction.”
Avan Lee, the Hurricanes chief executive, said “This crisis is incredibly difficult for most organisations and we are no different. Our staff have accepted salary reductions in the short-term. We will not be making any further comment as this discussion is not a public matter.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now