New Zealand's top rugby players could lose as much as $25 million combined this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand Rugby this afternoon confirmed that approximately $25 million, or 50 per cent, of the remaining forecasted player spend will be frozen as a result of the crisis which has seen sport halted around the world.
The pay cuts apply predominantly to players contracted at Super Rugby level (including All Blacks), in the national sevens programmes and Black Ferns - with NZR attempting to protect players on retainers of less than $50,000.
The expenditure freeze covers the base salary of players, assembly payments and other financial benefits and incentives, as well as reductions in player-funded welfare and development activities.
The key changes include:
• Freezing team assembly and tournament fees for all national teams, excluding the Black Ferns.
• Freezing promotional payments and the vast majority of player performance incentives.
• From 1 May, freezing 15 per cent of the players' 2020 base retainers for those paid more than $50,000 per year, with this rising to 30 per cent in September.
"We wanted to come up with solutions that worked for all our players and ensured that all sectors of our game were sharing in the financial pain we are currently enduring," NZR CEO Mark Robinson explained.
New Zealand Rugby Players' Association boss Rob Nichol said they had the worst-case financial scenario in mind - where no rugby is played at all in 2020 - when coming up with the cuts.
"In the event that this financial scenario eventuates, the frozen payments and benefits would become waived permanently. Alternatively, if professional rugby can resume and the financial outlook improves, then some of the frozen payments and benefits could be reinstated," said Nichol.
Nichol said they were still working with NZR and provincial unions on what would happen with provincial union contracts, while NZR Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum explained why top players would be taking a bigger hit.
"Our payment model is complex and it has taken time to determine a model that treats all players equitably. The model we have agreed protects those on retainers of less than $50,000. While not all players are being treated exactly the same, we felt these changes were the fairest way to address player payments and benefits, considering all the different ways our players are remunerated."
All Blacks star Beauden Barrett had earlier told Newstalk ZB's Martin Devlin that the players were completely willing to take cuts.
"As an employee of New Zealand Rugby, we're all facing some tough times and we're all in this together. We've seen some of our colleagues and friends have had to take a few cuts already."
The news follows confirmation that the All Blacks coaching staff were also taking pay cuts, with Robinson earlier confirming to the Herald that all NZR staff, including All Blacks management and the board, had taken a 20 per cent pay cut as the loss of revenue hit the organisation hard.
"The overall impact on revenue is significant. The absolute worst-case scenario, if we weren't able to get on the field this year, there is potential risk of north of $100 million in revenue at stake," Robinson said.
"When we've looked at scenarios around that we've realised we have to act very quickly in terms of getting costs under control. Preserving cash is absolutely critical."
"Our coaching group has definitely taken a big cut," All Blacks head coach Ian Foster told Devlin. "With rugby, when there's no games there's no revenue, and that's a tough thing. There's been a lot of shaving of the programs, and what it's also come down to is cutting salaries.
"There's a real willingness of those involved in the game to get behind to do whatever it takes to make sure it survives."