Peter FitzSimons predicts Australian rugby union is on track for financial ruin if the sport does not receive support from the Government amid the COVID-19 epidemic.
Peter FitzSimons predicts Australian rugby union is on track for financial ruin if the sport does not receive support from the Government amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

FitzSimons’ dire Rugby Australia warning

Media personality Peter FitzSimons believes Rugby Australia will "go down the gurgler" if the Government does not provide financial support during the sport's lockdown.

After the Super Rugby tournament was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rugby Australia estimated it would suffer a $120 million loss from match day and broadcast revenue if rugby union does not go ahead this season.

However, the sport's financial situation was in dire straits well before the virus wreaked havoc - RA announced a loss of $9.4 million for 2019 at its Annual General Meeting on Monday.

On Tuesday, CEO Castle announced 75 per cent of Rugby Australia's staff had been stood down without pay for the three months. Comparatively, New Zealand Rugby's staff only copped a 20 per cent pay cut.

Castle also revealed she would concede a 50 per cent cap cut to assist RA's financial recuperation during the coronavirus shut down. However, she will still earn $400,000 per year on the revised salary.

Raelene Caste was appointed Rugby Australia CEO in 2017
Raelene Caste was appointed Rugby Australia CEO in 2017

Like many other sporting organisation, RA will heavily rely on Government support to survive the COVID-19 epidemic, particularly if the upcoming international fixtures are impacted. But former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor questions whether rugby union deserves a loan when considering the sport's bleak financial trajectory.

"AFL's going well, and fortunately cricket is still going well, but where's rugby going?" Taylor asked on Sports Sunday.

"Club rugby seems to be going OK. International and Super 15 rugby I don't see is going very well.

"Are they going to lend rugby to a sport that doesn't have a bright-looking future?"

However, former Australian rugby player FitzSimons argued a financial loan for RA is justified due to the cultural significance of the Wallabies.

"The reason you'll lend (Rugby Australia) money is we've got a background of being a powerhouse nation in the world of rugby," FitzSimons said on Sunday.

"Global rugby is extremely healthy, so the reason you should lend us the money … is because if you don't lend it to us, we might go down the gurgler.

"Cricket without India would be rugby without Australia."

RA reportedly rejected a $20 million-per-year offer from Foxtel for broadcast rights, the proposal being $37 million a year less than the current deal.

Former Wallabies Rod Kafer and Nick Farr-Jones voiced their frustration with RA's management this week. On Friday, The Daily Telegraph reported Castle was set to be replaced by former Wallabies skipper Phil Kearns.

Phil Kearns has been tipped to take over as Rugby Australia CEO.
Phil Kearns has been tipped to take over as Rugby Australia CEO.

However, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Georgina Robinson jumped to Castle's defence, arguing no leader could have survived the unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.

"I think Raelene has some issues, (but) I don't think anyone in her position could have survived this crisis," Robinson said.

"I'm not sure that Phil Kearns in her position … could have survived this crisis.

"She made a call eight months ago to turn down an offer for more product from Fox Sports for less money because she was confident - and the Board was confident - there was another interested for the five-year broadcast right in the form of Optus.

"About a week before there was going to be money on the table for that deal, coronavirus pandemic hit. That is not a disaster of her making.

"Will she survive it? It's increasingly looking less likely."

FitzSimons believes Castle is a victim of the sport's inherent sexism and lingering discontent about how she handled the Israel Folau saga.

"If you were to measure the antipathy against Raelene Castle, about a half of it, in my view, is because she's a woman and there is an in-built discrimination," FitzSimons argued.

"There is a lot of people in the rugby community who say, 'We can't have a woman running rugby,' … I'm not making it up. That's the truth of it.

"The other half is the Israel Folau issue. She was the one that said, 'Israel, here's your hat … you've got to leave'. In my strong view, she had absolutely no choice but to move Israel Folau on, but there's an enduring resentment over that from some quarters."

GENIA 'INCREDIBLY SAD' BY CHAOS

Wallabies great Will Genia says he's "incredibly sad" about the state of Australian rugby and has called on the warring factions to come together for the sake of the game.

Genia called time on his international career with 105 Test caps to his name after last year's Rugby World Cup and shifted his playing future to Japan. Back in Queensland, the former Reds star has kept close tabs on the code, which is in dire straits after being halted by the coronavirus crisis at every level.

 

Rugby Australia has taken a massive financial hit and embattled chief executive Raelene Castle is in the firing line of the player's association (RUPA) over the handling of pay cuts, while a number of the game's high-profile figures are calling for her axing and removal of the board.

Genia says it's hard to watch rugby unravel and there needs to be more compassion towards RA in such extraordinary circumstances.

"I feel incredibly sad when you read things like they're on their knees and in debt massively," the 32-year-old told AAP.

"It's also sad that you start to see a lot infighting and people attacking each other within the game as opposed to everyone working together.

"In a situation like this it's easy to point the finger at Raelene and whoever and mismanagement of this and that but the only way the game can get through this is if everyone works together and looks for solutions as opposed to just playing up problems.

"Just the image of the game - everyone is so willing to throw each other under the bus as opposed to wanting to work together to find solutions."

Dave Rennie was appointed Australian coach in January
Dave Rennie was appointed Australian coach in January

Genia says he was genuinely excited about the Wallabies in 2020 before the pandemic, with new coach Dave Rennie taking over from the divisive Michael Cheika.

"As someone who's retired just recently I was so excited for all the news coming out of Australia," the halfback said.

"With a new coach in Dave, a new coaching team with Scotty (Wisemantel), Matty Taylor, who I've worked with at the Reds, the Izzy Folau issue has been put to bed - I was incredibly excited to sit back and see how things unfolded.

"They were heading in the right direction - they were putting things in place for the Wallabies and the national set-up in terms of looking after the Super Rugby provinces and then this has happened."

AAP

 

Originally published as FitzSimons' dire Rugby Australia warning



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