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NZ Rugby offers emergency funding to Super Rugby teams

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Rugby will make an emergency grant of $150,000 to each of its five Super Rugby teams to help them weather the next three months while the southern hemisphere tournament is suspended because of the global pandemic.

Chief executive Mark Robinson said the grant was “a critical supplement to other financing options or levers being considered by the clubs” that face an uncertain financial future.

The Super Rugby season has been suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus outbreak and it is not clear when or if it will resume.

"Super Rugby is a vital part of our rugby ecosystem and has a solid 25-year track record as a strong and admired rugby competition that has valuable intellectual property and a legacy of world class rugby," Robinson said it a statement Wednesday. "These decisions are about protecting the core capability of the Super Rugby clubs so that they are ready to hit the ground running if Super Rugby resumes later this year and also be in a position to revive and participate in Super Rugby in whatever shape it takes in 2021 and beyond."

Robinson said while New Zealand Rugby would also continue to fund its provincial unions in the short term, continuing support could not be guaranteed. NZR provides $18 million to the provinces each year and Robinson said the second quarterly payment would be made.

"However, given the challenging circumstances with Covid-19, beyond this time we will keep a watching brief as things develop," he said. "Super Rugby clubs normally earn all their revenue through commercial and gate activities. All clubs are doing a range of things to keep their organizations viable through this challenging time.

"In addition, just like NZR, Super Rugby clubs have also made necessary changes because of the Covid-19 crisis, including budget cuts and staffing changes. The emergency grant is necessary so that Super Rugby Clubs can survive and be ready to grow their revenue once we are through the pandemic."

Robinson, along with board members and staff of New Zealand Rugby and All Blacks management staff, have taken an immediate 20% pay cut, at least for the next two months. Talks with the New Zealand Rugby Players Association are continuing and an announcement is expected in the next week about pay cuts for leading players.

Robinson said NZR would form a working group comprising representatives of provinces, Super Rugby clubs, the Rugby Players Association, commercial partners, NZR and others to review the structure of domestic competitions for the remainder of the year.

The Heartland Championship, for second and third tier provinces, has already been canceled.

"The working group will be looking at developing the best possible rugby for players, fans and stakeholders for 2020 and it is a hugely positive signal for the game that stakeholders are coming together to do what is in the best interests for rugby," he said.

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

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