Embattled rugby boss Raelene Castle: “The players recognise their responsibility in securing the future”.
Embattled rugby boss Raelene Castle: “The players recognise their responsibility in securing the future”.

Castle’s stay of execution as pay talks continue

Rugby Australia's embattled boss Raelene Castle was given another stay of execution after the drawn out talks with the players' union dragged into at least one more day after both parties took a break from the tense negotiations.

It is understood that the deal that will decide how much money players have to forfeit because RA is almost broke is now closer than ever after everyone agreed to find a short term solution to cover the coronavirus lockdown.

But the long term problems - including who will lead the cash-strapped organisation through the unfolding economic crisis that RA fears could result in a devastating $120 million loss of revenue - remain unsolved, at least for now.

Embattled Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
Embattled Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

There was no formal meeting on Wednesday though both sides did communicate via email to clarify some of the few remaining points of difference with the intention of holding a video conference on Thursday to try and end the stalemate.

"Both parties appreciate what is at stake and the players recognise their role and shared responsibility in securing the future and helping the game navigate through this unprecedented challenge," Castle said in a statement.

"We thank RUPA and the players for working constructively towards finding a short-term solution to shore up the long-term future of Rugby in Australia."

 

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

 

After slamming RA as "a vacuum of information," RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison has been keeping his powder dry about why the talks have taken so long, though it's widely known the players are strongly opposed to RA's recommendation that all 192 professional players be given a 65 per cent wage cut for six months.

RUPA has already argued and won that players on lower salaries should be given a lower reduction.

The worst kept secret is that the players are deeply frustrated by Castle's handling of the negotiations, particularly as a new collective bargaining agreement is due to be discussed later this year that is far more complicated.

Whether Castle will be involved in those talks appears increasingly unlikely with sources saying the embattled CEO's few remanding supporters have lost faith in her so it's expected calls for her head to roll will come the moment the pay cut talks end, with Wallaby legend Phil Kearns widely expected to take over.

 

RUPA boss and former Wallaby Justin Harrison. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly Daily
RUPA boss and former Wallaby Justin Harrison. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly Daily

 

Publicly, RA's board members are standing by Castle but insiders say her days are numbered after her failure to secure a new broadcast deal has left RA on the brink of being declared insolvent.

The standoff with players over pay cuts is just the tip of the iceberg but has served as a glaring demonstration of how deep rooted the problems are what was once the country's most successful international sport.

Two of Australia's four Super Rugby teams - the Waratahs and the Brumbies - have already shelled out around a combined total of $1 million in the past fortnight to pay their players out in full because no deal has been reached.

With case reserves of less than $11 million, RA's best chance of going to the cleaners is for a quick resumption of matches but that is not expected to happen for at least a month - and probably much longer - because of the travel restrictions and social distancing rules that apply to sport like everyone else.

Originally published as Castle's stay of execution as code, superstars suffer



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