Former Wallaby Rod Kafer has savaged Rugby Australia and CEO Raelene Castle after a tumultuous period for the sport, exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic.
The 2020 Super Rugby season was postponed in March after New Zealand tightened travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and it has been estimated RA 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 annual general meeting on Monday.
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."
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.
Yesterday, Castle announced 75 per cent of Rugby Australia's staff will be stood down for the next three months.
"Reducing 75 per cent of the staff — is it too much or not enough? Nobody has got any idea," said Kafer.
"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."