Rugby Australia’s newly appointed interim chief executive, Rob Clarke, wants a swift return to play and to get a handle on the organisation’s financial state.
The former Brumbies and Rebels CEO had earlier in the week been named as Raelene Castle’s replacement after her controversial reign ended last month.
Clarke outlined his two key objectives at his first media conference in the role on Thursday, having met with board members on Zoom beforehand.
‘There’s a lot to be done. The game has gone through a very, very challenging period and the first item on the agenda is to get ourselves playing around the country again,’ Clarke said.
‘I’m delighted with the plans that have been put into place with the team here; we’re well positioned for when the restrictions are lifted and will enable us to get rugby played at both a community level and a professional level as soon as we possibly can.
‘We have to unify our game and the factions and frustrations that go with that just impede progress. I love the game, it’s a part of me and when you love something and you see it hurting you want to try and do your bit, so that’s why I’m here.’
He added that he hopes to speak to incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on Friday and is eager to conduct a complete review of Vodacom Super Rugby in 2020 and beyond.
Clarke revealed proposals had been put to the Australian government for the sport to return, with July the earliest date play could resume at the elite level.
‘At the professional level, our plans have been submitted to the government,’ he said.
‘Assuming that restrictions are lifted as we hope in the next week or so, we would aim to be playing in possibly July with training starting in June, but of course it’s all tied to restrictions.
‘The government has our proposal and I hope they view it favourably and that will give us a rough time frame.’
Prior to her departure, Castle announced provisional losses of $9.4 million for RA in 2019, with a much larger deficit – reported as up to $120m – on the books for 2020 if rugby does not return this year.
Clarke, however, is hopeful a World Rugby bailout will ease RA’s worries.
‘That is something that is absolute priority, clearly the game is not in healthy financial shape, we know that, the exact details I’ll get across in coming days,’ he said.
‘I’m confident that World Rugby money is secure and that will be approved imminently and that goes a long way to relieving some immediate financial pressures. But I need a little bit more time to get under the numbers and understanding where we’re at.’
Rob Clarke appointed @RugbyAU interim CEO.
— Rugby Australia (@RugbyAU) May 6, 2020
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