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Embattled Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle resigns

SYDNEY (AP) — Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle resigned on Thursday after she said the board of directors made it clear that it would not allow her to continue in her role.

Rugby Australia said Castle informed chairman Paul McLean of her decision.

Castle was under pressure to retain her position in the face of multiple challenges, including a damaged relationship with top players. This week, 11 former Wallabies captains sent a letter to the board demanding a change of administration, saying the sport had “lost its way.”

“I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests," Castle said in a Rugby Australia statement. “In the last couple of hours it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being the CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need. The game is bigger than any one individual."

Rugby Australia reported a provisional $6 million deficit in 2019, and local media say it will lose up to $76 million this year if professional rugby does not resume because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many other national unions, Rugby Australia has stood down three-quarters of its employees, and players have agreed to pay cuts.

Super Rugby is suspended, the July home tests against Ireland and Fiji are unlikely, and the Rugby Championship involving Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina is also in doubt.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont last week expressed doubt that any professional rugby competitions will be able to resume in 2020.

Rugby Australia also became embroiled in a protracted public and legal row with its star player, Israel Folau, after he posted religious commentary on his social media account at odds with the sport’s values.

Castle was appointed CEO in December 2017, reportedly picked from 200 candidates. She was not only the first woman to lead Rugby Australia but also the first woman to lead any of Australia’s major football codes. The Australian-born New Zealander previously led Netball New Zealand and Canterbury-Bankstown in Australia’s National Rugby League.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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