Wallabies legend Tim Horan has offered up his five-point plan to save Australian rugby as the stalemate between Rugby Australia and the players’ association over wage negotiations continues.
The two parties again failed to reach an agreement after crisis talks on Saturday, raising fears that the financially stricken Super Rugby clubs will follow through on threats to stand down players.
RA powerbrokers including embattled chief executive Raelene Castle met with RUPA representatives to discuss the extent of players’ pay reductions following the suspension of Super Rugby because of the coronavirus pandemic.
While no there was no resolution to the fortnight-long saga, the governing body emerged from dealings optimistic that a compromise could be reached before the end of Easter.
“Rugby Australia believes that progress was made and that both parties will continue negotiations in good faith for the good of the game,” RA said in a statement.
“The meeting was finalised early this afternoon and both parties have gone away to consider their position in anticipation of talks continuing over the Easter weekend.
“Rugby Australia is doing everything it can to enable an outcome that will provide short-term financial certainty and enable the game to emerge from this global health and economic crisis and continue to serve the 900-plus rugby clubs in communities across the country.”
Saturday’s talks were postponed from Thursday due to an RA director being ill.
RA had asked the players to take a 65 per cent pay cut until the end of September, but that proposal was rejected by RUPA last week when Castle herself only accepted a 50 per cent cut.
Castle has reportedly since agreed to a 65 per cent cut of her $800,000-plus salary, saying “it’s the right thing to do”.
But while the players are said to be willing to take a hip-pocket hit during the COVID-19 shutdown, they’ve questioned why their financial sacrifices must be for six months when Super Rugby may resume well before that.
The cash-strapped governing body last week stood down 75 per cent of their non-player workforce after announcing a $9.4 million loss in 2019 and is facing a catastrophic $120 million shortfall if no Super Rugby or Tests are played this year.
Horan says “for Australian rugby to move forward” RA and RUPA must first settle their pay dispute.
The two-time World Cup winner took to Twitter to recommend that, secondly, Rugby Australia must seek a loan from the Australian government in order to work its way out of financial peril.
Thirdly, he wants a 10 to 12-week domestic competition featuring the NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels as well as Super Rugby rejects the Western Force and the Japan-based Sunwolves.
Horan also proposes Castle restart broadcast negotiations after RA rejected Foxtel to now-infamously “test the market” on TV rights and was then unable to secure a new broadcast partner.
As passionate a rugby lover as they come, Horan’s fifth and final suggestion was for Australia to look long term and to tap into the lucrative Asian market long term rather than persist with aligning itself with South Africa and Argentina and their unfavourable time zones.
“Super Rugby will look very different in the next five years,” he said on Fox Sports.
“I think it’s probably got to be an Asian-Pacific type model – Australia, New Zealand and allow Japan to stay in the model.
“Then you look at Fiji, Samoa, Tonga.”
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