SA Rugby stands to lose millions of rand per month if the national lockdown is not lifted by May and the 2020 rugby season does not resume by June at the earliest.
Rugby, like all sport, has been suspended worldwide due to the global coronavirus outbreak. Various sports leagues, unions, franchises and clubs have announced temporary pay cuts, including New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia, the Welsh Rugby Union, the Scottish Rugby Union, the Rugby Football Union in England and the Italian Rugby Federation.
SA Rugby has not yet been forced to take such drastic measures. In fact, in partnership with various stakeholders, including the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO), MyPlayers (representing the players) and Sports Employees’ Unite (SEU – the rugby staffs’ trade union), the governing body have formulated in a joint working group, known as the Covid-19 Management Committee, aimed at cost saving in the face of expected shortfall in revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, according to a report written by veteran journalists Hendrik Cronje and Brenden Nel in the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, SA Rugby could lose between R27m and R33m per month if the national lockdown extends into May and if the players are not back in training by at least June.
The report further indicates that SA Rugby’s non-profitable tournaments, like Craven Week and the Provincial Rugby Challenge, could well be cancelled to save costs. The Currie Cup is likely to go ahead, but the organisers still have to decide on a format.
SA Rugby staff will have to take pay cuts, but employees’ wage reduction will be made according to their level of income. Should the season resume in June, SA Rugby will be able to reimburse its employees for the loss of income.
Another part of SA Rugby’s continuity planning is to find a way to help players with a low income from the smaller unions to avoid pay cuts altogether.
But not everyone is happy with how the situation is being handled.
‘Some players feel forced to agree to pay cuts without being consulted first. It’s as if there’s a gun to their heads, forcing them to accept the changes,’ a player agent told Rapport.
‘But according to the labour laws, employers can’t deduct money from salaries without its employees giving permission. Every player has to individually approve their respective wage reductions before it can happen,’ he added.
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