Former World Cup-winning Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones has unleashed on the Rugby Australia board, declaring the organisation as “unbankable”.
The 57-year-old ex-halfback told Triple M radio on Saturday that the COVID-19 pandemic has only brought the union’s dire financial state to light, and said that RA only has itself to blame.
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“In sport, your revenues come from three areas,” Farr-Jones said.
“Broadcasting is representative of about 40 or 50 percent of anticipated revenues or budgeted revenues and then you’ve got sponsors chip in about a third and the balance is largely game day, which is bums on seats and merchandising and what have you.
“And I think in all those three areas in the last couple of years, rugby has managed the game atrociously.”
Among a raft of issues currently facing the game in Australia, Farr-Jones – who skippered the Wallabies to their first World Cup crown in 1991 – was livid at RA chief executive Raelene Castle’s inability to secure a new broadcast deal.
Rugby is consequently left facing insolvency amid the coronavirus outbreak, with RA bracing for a worst-case scenario of a loss in excess of $90 million should no further rugby be played this year.
The two-time World Cup winning Wallabies hooker looks set to take over the helm of the union, according to a report out of Australia.https://t.co/8tMXTSuS7r
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 4, 2020
“Sadly, because we don’t have a broadcasting deal, which the other codes do have, we are basically, in my opinion, unbankable,” Farr-Jones said.
“The NFL went out and raised, I think it was, $600 million through banks. I mean, what a phenomenal situation because they’ve got this great broadcasting agreement that’s in place.
“I think the NRL recently announced that they were going to give each club $2.5 million. That is because they’re bankable.
“What are the future incomes of Rugby Australia look to? A hole in the donut.”
The 63-test star asked if it was time for Castle – who is facing intense pressure to keep her job following the announcement of $9.4 million loss for 2019 on Monday – to step aside from her position.
“I think the rugby community has lost confidence in the senior executives and the board of Rugby Australia. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“It hasn’t been fantastic the last couple of years.
“Not only has the way we’ve played, be it the Super clubs or the disappointment of last year’s World Cup in Japan.
“But it’s really all aspects of the game… you look at the crowd numbers, for example.”
In addition to the multi-million dollar deficit, Castle announced that RA would stand down 75 percent of its staff in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, while also taking a 50 percent pay slash – believed to be worth around $400,000 – herself.
The ensuing week has been a tumultuous one for Castle and RA, which gave itself a 72 percent performance rating for last year at Monday’s annual general meeting.
That was despite Australian rugby enduring a lacklustre 12 months, which featured a quarter-final exit by the Wallabies at the World Cup, the Israel Folau saga, severely low attendance figures and numerous high-profile players depart Super Rugby.
Critics of Castle – including ex-Wallabies trio Phil Kearns, Rod Kafer and George Gregan – have since questioned the justification behind RA’s relatively high performance rating and are advocating for change at the top of the hierarchy.
A report from the Daily Telegraph suggested that Kearns had the backing to replace Castle next year, but the former Wallabies hooker has since dismissed those claims as “paper talk”.
Former Wallabies star Phil Kearns has dismissed a report suggesting that he could replace under-fire Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.https://t.co/9aF6nOMF93
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 4, 2020
Furthermore, a public spat between RA and the Rugby Union Players’ Association has only just been resolved after the association attained documents to allow full access to the governing body’s finances on Saturday after it had allegedly been requesting them for nearly a month.
RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison is hopeful that by obtaining the documents, talks regarding player pay cuts amid the COVID-19 outbreak can be sped up, but Farr-Jones isn’t surprised that RA held out from discussions with the association.
“If it wasn’t for the participation fee that we would have got from last year’s World Cup, which was an outstanding success in Japan, we’d be broke now,” Farr-Jones said.
“That would be the only reserves we’ve got.
“I think the only reason Rugby Australia hasn’t sat down with RUPA sooner and cut a deal is because then they’d be crystallising liabilities going forward, which they don’t have income to pay for.
“That is an ongoing concern issue. If you’re a board director, you basically have to look at voluntary administration.
“So that is the reason I think they’ve stalled on meeting with RUPA. That’s why they cut 75 per cent of their staff last week. We just don’t have the income going forward.”
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