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SA Rugby adopts R1.2bn cost-cutting plan, weighs up return options

Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa lifts the Webb Ellis Cup with Siya Kolisi after their side win the Rugby World Cup 2019 final (by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images )

Rugby union stakeholders in South Africa have agreed on a plan to slash up to R1.2bn (€60.1m/$64.8m) from the sport’s budget by the end of the year, as SA Rugby said it is working on efforts to return the reigning world champions to the pitch.

The Rugby Industry Financial Impact Plan has been drawn up by bodies representing SA Rugby, players’ organisation MyPlayers, Sport Employees Unite union, and the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO) which represents the provincial unions.

SA Rugby said the plan will be achieved by reduced expenditure following the cancellation of competitions (49.7 per cent of savings), cuts in other operational budgets (37.3 per cent) and in salary reductions (13 per cent).

The salary cuts amount to 25 per cent of total remuneration across the industry, including all employees, players and officials. Persons earning below R20,000 per month have been exempted from any cuts, while higher earners have agreed to cuts on a sliding scale of up to 43 per cent.

SA Rugby has followed fellow Sanzaar member unions New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia in cutting their cloth amid Covid-19. Jurie Roux, SA Rugby chief executive, said: “The group identified our collective areas of financial risk and what savings had to be made and then identified a plan to mitigate those risks.

“It has meant salary cuts for many, but we have put together a plan that will ensure the industry will be positioned and resourced to get straight back to action just as soon as we are permitted.”

On Friday, World Rugby announced the postponement of international matches planned for July on the advice of government and health agencies. South Africa has yet to play in front of its own fans after winning the World Cup in November, and had been due to host Scotland in two Tests in July, followed by a match against Georgia.

South African rugby stakeholders are currently believed to be weighing up a six-team domestic tournament that would see the country’s four Super Rugby franchises – Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – face off against Pro14 teams the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.

Commenting on efforts to return to action, Roux said: “From the moment we went into lockdown we have been preparing and workshopping internal guidelines and protocols for return to play and return to work. Those are complete and are ready to be actioned as soon as we get government’s go-ahead.

“We have presented our case to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture and believe we have a strong case. We do not run hospitals or build ventilators and we are not an industry that is critical to the South African economy; but we do believe that we add huge value to national life in other ways.

“The sight of the Springboks running out for the first time since winning the Rugby World Cup would be a powerful milestone on the nation’s journey to the other side of this crisis as well as being a boost for national morale. While the return to play of our provincial teams – even if it is behind closed doors – would similarly be hugely beneficial to a nation in lockdown.

“We understand that there are bigger agendas at play but believe the risk of transmission could be well managed by our protocols. We trust the minister and government will view our case seriously.”

The Industry Savings Plan came into effect on May 1 and is initially scheduled to run until the end of December.