Rugby: Wallabies ready to take pay cuts to save game

By Jim Morton

Former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones has led calls for incentive-based pay, claiming Wallabies should be paid far less for defeats.
Former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones has led calls for incentive-based pay, claiming Wallabies should be paid far less for defeats.

The Wallabies are poised to accept pay cuts to help stop the financially strapped code going broke.

A new collective bargaining agreement is set to end the days of Australian players earning a guaranteed A$14,000 ($15,800) per test - win, lose or draw.

The Australian Rugby Union's survival is at stake as it sits in a perilous financial position after recording a A$19 million deficit in the past two years and a worrying slump in support for the 15-man game.

The Wallabies' dismal results this year - winning just three of their nine tests to drop to No4 in the world - have also had an effect on attendances and sponsorship.

In eight months since he replaced John O'Neill as ARU chief executive, Bill Pulver, in his own words, has "brutally attacked the cost base" by making cuts across the board.

Even a windfall from the Lions tour in winter won't get the ARU out of the hole dug by years of overexpenditure, largely with executive salaries.

Pulver has slashed employee numbers at the ARU and made significant cutbacks to the high-performance unit and shelved the national academies in Brisbane and Sydney.

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"My first six months at the ARU a lot of my time has been spent ripping costs out of the place basically," said Pulver. "It's been a very important cleansing experience.

"From a financial perspective we're going to be skating on thin ice for the next couple of years. Can we get through? Yes, we can. Is it going to be bloody hard? Yes, it is."

Warnings of cuts to club rugby have made Pulver, looking to develop a new third-tier national competition, unpopular in club circles but he is making no apologies for taking drastic measures for the good of the game.

A reduction of player salaries has firmly been on the agenda and should be revealed in the next two months when a new agreement, the first since 2005, is expected to be finalised.

The ARU board meets on Monday to discuss ongoing negotiations with the Rugby Union Players Association.

Both Pulver and association boss Greg Harris confirmed test match payments - which would see a Wallaby earn $196,000 if he played all 15 tests this year on top of his salary - were among issues being addressed.

Former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones has led calls for incentive-based pay, claiming Wallabies should be paid far less for defeats.

Harris said that the players union was taking a conciliatory approach to ensure the game didn't go under.

"Player directors have been united in their commitment in trying to assist the game in trying to confront the financial issues."

- AAP

- NZ Herald

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