World Rugby announces $100 million global relief package

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — World Rugby will make almost $100 million available to help nations through the COVID-19 pandemic which it calls an unprecedented threat to the global game.

Most major unions have already been forced to cut players’ salaries and slash administrative costs as the virus outbreak has forced professional competitions around the world to close.

World Rugby announced its response in a statement Thursday, saying stakeholders are united in tackling the “unprecedented COVID-19 challenge.”

The relief fund will help nations weather the financial impact of the virus outbreak. At the same time World Rugby will work globally to decide on “a viable return to rugby” and to develop a “blueprint for potential long-term calendar overhaul.”

World Rugby said its relief strategy is “underpinned by a relief fund of approximately $100 million to assist unions through to the resumption of the sport.

“The strategy reflects World Rugby’s commitment to leading the sport through its greatest challenge and is a result of cross-game collaboration that has enabled key decisions to be taken in the spirit of solidarity and partnership.”

The relief fund will available for unions requiring immediate emergency funding “subject to appropriate criteria being met.

World Rugby said it is working with Six Nations and Sanzaar nations and with the international Players Association on “a variety of return to rugby plans” which would be subject to the relevant government and health authority advice.

“This includes likely short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar, optimizing competition opportunities for unions and domestic leagues. As a prudent precaution, further scenario planning factors in a competition environment where cross-hemisphere travel might not be possible and, in the worst-case scenario, where no international rugby is possible this year."

World Rugby said player welfare was central to all potential scenarios.

“Global sport is facing a crisis never seen before and at this most challenging time we are taking unprecedented action as a sport united to support global rugby, its unions, competitions and players through the enormous challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” chairman Bill Beaumont said.

Last week, New Zealand’s top rugby players agreed to a 50% pay reduction as New Zealand Rugby contends with the financial fallout from the pandemic.

Cash-strapped Rugby Australia, in response to World Rugby's statement, said it hoped to benefit from the relief fund. The package could be worth around $10 million to Rugby Australia, which has already made extensive cuts to their administration and may soon finalize an interim pay deal with the Rugby Union Players’ Association.

Rugby Australia is reported to be seeking a 65% pay cut for players over a six-month period, and could lose up to $100 million in revenue if the professional game can’t resume in Australia this year.


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