Australian rugby has been thrown into turmoil with the news that Aussie players are threatening to strike, on the eve of the new Super Rugby competition. With kick-off nine days away, Rugby Australia (RA) is in talks with the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) over a proposed 40% salary cut to the players for the remainder of 2020. RUPA representatives have been angered by the proposed cuts, pointing out that the RA executive team have only taken on a 5% wage cut.
The players are standing firm and a strike has the potential to cripple rugby after the code posted a $6.5 million deficit over the last 12 months. A strike potentially would eat up the goodwill generated from the Fox broadcast agreement for the new competition. Fox have agreed in principle to a short-term broadcast deal for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Any strike action from the players would cripple the code financially as they continue to play catch-up with the NRL and AFL in the Australian market.
The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria have forced Rugby Australia to relocate the Melbourne Rebels to Canberra, nine-days out from the Super Rugby opening game. The move has forced the players to question the need for further salary cuts moving forward into the season.
In negotiations with the players’ union (RUPA) this week, RA proposed easing the players’ current 60 per cent salary sacrifice to 40 per cent from October to December. The proposal was rejected by RUPA and some Melbourne players were so enraged they brought up strike action as a potential response.
According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, RUPA were hopeful of a 20 per cent cut for the remainder of the 2020 season. All 192 professional players were asked to take a 60% pay cut at the start of the pandemic, with the belief they would be back on full salary once a broadcast deal had been secured. With no broadcast deal secured beyond 2020, the players would face the prospect of reduced salaries for the next 12 months, with no guarantee of returning to the status-quo before COVID.
The stalemate in salary negotiations has added to the pressure on RA, who have been forced to move the Melbourne Rebels to Canberra. The spike in COVID-19 cases has meant that the Rebels will not be able to play out of Victoria for the foreseeable future.
The Super Rugby competition is confirmed to start on July 3 with the Reds hosting the Waratahs in Brisbane. A crowd of 10,000 will be permitted, with just 1500 fans allowed to watch the Brumbies vs Rebels game on July 4.