Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle is bunkering down as the storm builds around her after another day of damaging headlines for the struggling football code.
On the same day Wallabies great Rod Kafer delivered a scathing assessment of Castle and her executive team's performance at this week's disastrous Annual General Meeting, a report has emerged of Castle's less-than-convincing performance during Rugby Australia's announcement that 75 per cent of employees would be stood down.
The decision to leave 75 per cent of staff without regular income was described as the darkest day in the code's history by some rugby commentators.
It was also revealed at the time that Castle is taking a 50 per cent pay cut on her reported $800,000 salary while the coronavirus continues to leave rugby shut down indefinitely.
The Australian now reports Castle's handling of the game's darkest day has been described by an insider as an "appalling corporate cluster f***".
The report claims a person present at the meeting on Tuesday — where Castle dropped the bomb on staff — described the chief executive's staff address as the "most appalling corporate cluster f*** I have witnessed in a long time".
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It came in the same week where Castle is reported to have told her staff and stakeholders not to listen to the doom and gloom warnings from Kafer and fellow Wallaby greats, including George Gregan and Phil Kearns — who have all in some capacity called for changes to be made at the top of the Rugby Australia executive team.
The report also claims rugby critics continue to be concerned that the former Canterbury Bulldogs CEO "seems blind" to the imperilled state of rugby in Australia.
Rugby Australia's financial modelling estimates the game will suffer a $120 million loss from match day and broadcast revenue if rugby union 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 AGM this week.
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.
The infamous Israel Folau saga also resulted in RA handing over an unconfirmed amount to the disgraced Wallaby in an out-of-court settlement – however, it was reported in December the sum was approximately $8 million.
The performance of Australian rugby teams has also dwindled significantly – only the Brumbies have shown any resilience in Super Rugby over the past three years, while the Wallabies suffered a quarter-final exit at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Australia fell to their lowest position on the World Rugby rankings last year, at one stage slipping below Japan.
Super Rugby crowds have been gradually dropping for several years, with average attendance falling to less than 9000 this season, down from nearly 17,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, several high-profile players – including Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley – transferred to overseas leagues for larger contracts.
It was all too much for Kafer when asked to explain rugby's plight when asked on Fox Sports News on Wednesday.
Kafer – who worked for RA in elite coaching development from 2017 to 2019 – labelled the organisation's management a "train smash" during an explosive interview on Fox Sports News.
"When the CEO comes out and says we're looking down a $120 million hole — how did we find ourselves in that position? How does a board allow the game to get into that position?" Kafer asked.
"We know rugby was sick a long time before the coronavirus came along … Rugby has been sick for years.
"People have been calling for change and it hasn't occurred, and yet the same people who have taken it off the cliff are still there, still employed.
"There's no knowledge about what actually is going on … Everybody has been kept in the dark at the moment.
"Reducing 75 per cent of the staff — is it too much or not enough? Nobody has got any idea.
"And this is in a year in which the Wallabies slipped from sixth to seventh in the world and were tumbled out in the (World Cup) quarter-finals."
The 45-year-old rugby commentator also voiced his confusion regarding RA's positive self-reflection despite the ongoing chaos. Kafer claimed RA awarded itself a 72 per cent pass mark at their 2019 AGM.
"Spectators are down at all events in every rugby game … Viewer numbers down, a loss of $9.6 million, the Israel Folau debacle and then the board and Raelene Castle saying no to a broadcast deal into the future to secure their revenue in November last year, that was equal to the existing deal that was on the table," Kafer said.
"Many, many millions of dollars they said no to and still gave themselves a ranking of 72 per cent in their internal ranking."
Castle revealed she would concede a 50 per cent cap cut to assist financial RA's financial recuperation during the coronavirus shut down. However, the CEO will still earn $400,000 per year on the revised salary.
Kafer pointed out this sum is still higher than what most professional Australian rugby players earn.
"She's gone down to $400,000 a year — more than 95 per cent of all players in the game with her salary sacrifice … something's wrong," Kafer said.
"It is time for drastic change. The rugby community, the players, everybody who has sat around and watched this train smash over the last few years and has called for change — now is the time to demand change."