Media personality Peter FitzSimons believes Rugby Australia will "go down the gurgler" if the Government does not provide financial support during the sport's lockdown.
After Super Rugby was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rugby Australia estimated it would suffer a $120 million loss from matchday and broadcast revenue if rugby does not go ahead this season.
However, the sport's financial situation was in dire straits well before the virus wreaked havoc – RA announced a loss of $9.4 million for 2019 at its Annual General Meeting on Monday. On Tuesday, CEO Raelene Castle announced 75 per cent of Rugby Australia's staff had been stood down without pay for the three months.
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Like many other sporting organisations, RA will heavily rely on Government support to survive the Covid-19 epidemic, particularly if the upcoming international fixtures are impacted. But former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor questioned whether rugby deserves a loan when considering the sport's bleak financial trajectory.
"AFL's going well, and fortunately cricket is still going well, but where's rugby going?" Taylor asked on Sports Sunday.
"Club rugby seems to be going okay. International and Super Rugby I don't see is going very well.
"Are they going to lend to rugby - a sport that doesn't have a bright-looking future?"
However, former Australian rugby player FitzSimons argued a financial loan for RA is justified due to the cultural significance of the Wallabies.
"The reason you'll lend (Rugby Australia) money is we've got a background of being a powerhouse nation in the world of rugby," FitzSimons said.
"Global rugby is extremely healthy, so the reason you should lend us the money … is because if you don't lend it to us, we might go down the gurgler.
"Cricket without India would be rugby without Australia."
RA reportedly rejected a $20 million-per-year offer from Foxtel for broadcast rights, the proposal being $37 million a year less than the current deal, while Castle has been slammed by several former Wallabies this week amid reports her job is under threat.
However, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Georgina Robinson jumped to Castle's defence, arguing no leader could have survived the unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.
"I think Raelene has some issues, (but) I don't think anyone in her position could have survived this crisis," Robinson said.
"I'm not sure that Phil Kearns - in her position - could have survived this crisis.
"She made a call eight months ago to turn down an offer for more product from Fox Sports for less money because she was confident – and the board was confident – there was another interested for the five-year broadcast right in the form of Optus.
"About a week before there was going to be money on the table for that deal, coronavirus pandemic hit. That is not a disaster of her making.
"Will she survive it? It's increasingly looking less likely."
FitzSimons believes Castle is a victim of the sport's inherent sexism and lingering discontent about how she handled the Israel Folau saga.
"If you were to measure the antipathy against Raelene Castle, about a half of it, in my view, is because she's a woman and there is an in-built discrimination," FitzSimons argued.
"There is a lot of people in the rugby community who say, 'We can't have a woman running rugby,' … I'm not making it up. That's the truth of it.
"The other half is the Israel Folau issue. She was the one that said, 'Israel, here's your hat … you've got to leave'. In my strong view, she had absolutely no choice but to move Israel Folau on, but there's an enduring resentment over that from some quarters."