Coronavirus hits sport: Waratahs earn full pay regardless of Rugby Australia agreement

While Rugby Australia and the players' union inch closer to an agreement on an interim pay deal, one Aussie Super Rugby team received some relief on Tuesday.

NSW Rugby decided to follow the recent example of the Brumbies in paying their Waratahs players in full this month.

AAP reports that back-dated adjustments will be made to their salaries later in the year, once an agreement on the scale of the pay cuts has been finalised.

Earlier this month, NSW Rugby stood down about 70 percent of their non-playing staff, including Waratahs' coach Rob Penney, who has returned to New Zealand for now.

There had been suggestions the players would be stood down, but only as a final resort.

The Reds and Rebels are due to pay their players later in the month, but by that time, a pay cut agreement should be in place.

On Tuesday, RA and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) resumed talks, after failing to thrash out an agreement on pay cuts over Easter.

AAP reports a two-hour video conference included player representatives from each of Australia's professional programmes and the four Super Rugby teams.

They were joined by RA directors Phil Waugh and Daniel Herbert, chief executive Raelene Castle, RUPA chairman Campbell Fisher and CEO Justin Harrison.

"We have made good progress today, following a meeting with RUPA and several players from across each of our professional teams," Castle said.

"There are 192 professional players across the country and we understand RUPA wanting to consult broadly with their membership on these discussions.

"Both parties appreciate what is at stake, and the players recognise their role and shared responsibility in securing the future and helping the game navigate through this unprecedented challenge.

"We thank RUPA and the players for working constructively towards finding a short-term solution to shore up the long-term future of Rugby in Australia."

RA is believed to have asked the players to accept a 65 percent wage reduction over the next six months.


Tour de France set for delay

Cycling teams are gearing up for the Tour de France to be held in August rather than the usual July, after French President Emmanuel Macron said big public events would be halted until mid-July as the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marc Madiot, president of the French cycling league and director of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, said Macron's comments, which included extending measures to slow the coronavirus outbreak, paved the way for the Tour to be held in August.

"Based on what he told us, it seems conceivable to hold the Tour de France in the course of August," he told Reuters.

French newspaper Le Dauphine Libere reported later on Wednesday (NZT) that the Tour would run from August 29-September 20.

A source with direct knowledge of the matter said that the UCI, cycling's governing body, would need to approve any new dates for the Tour.

Thousands of fans gather along the roadside every day to watch the Tour and urge on the riders during the three-week race, posing a risk of spreading the virus further among the public and the cycling teams alike.

Asian football postponements continue

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has postponed all games and competitions scheduled for May and June until further notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Asian Champions League - Asia's elite club competition - has been severely affected, with its schedule of the group phase thrown into disarray, since the tournament began in February.

The second-tier AFC Cup was also suspended last month, due to the novel coronavirus that has infected almost 2 million people globally and caused more than 125,000 deaths.

"Following the continued preventive measures and travel restrictions put in place by several governments, the AFC has decided to postpone all matches and competitions scheduled to take place in May and June until further notice," the AFC said.

"The AFC has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, and had earlier postponed its matches in March and April, after holding a series of emergency meetings in New Delhi, Doha, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

"The AFC will also continue to engage and consult with the participating member associations in the AFC club competitions, and will explore all possible options to complete the 2020 AFC Champions League and AFC Cup group stages."

World soccer governing body FIFA and the AFC had previously agreed to postpone the Asian World Cup qualifying matches in March and June.


Elite Scottish rugby players cop a five-month pay cut

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - Scotland vs New Zealand - BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Britain - November 18, 2017   Scotland s John Barclay in action    REUTERS/Russell Cheyne - RC1A3C6B48F0
Photo credit: Reuters

Scotland's highest-paid rugby union players are set to have their salaries reduced for the next five months, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move will affect players earning over STG 50,000 ($NZ99,000)  a year, with cuts of 10-25 percent effective from April 1 to September 1, depending on the scale of pay, says Scottish Rugby.

"The proposed salary reductions reflect the challenging financial situation facing rugby in Scotland, across the UK and the world.

"Scottish Rugby revenues are being affected as matchday receipts from the PRO14 and EPCR [European Professional Club Rugby] tournament fixtures [that] ended and other income-generating activity [which] has been interrupted.

"The Scotland national team men's summer tours to South Africa and New Zealand [in July] are in doubt. There is uncertainty over the autumn tests [in November] at Murrayfield.

"This combination of factors will have a significant impact on Scottish Rugby revenues."

Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland sevens, Stage 3 Scottish Rugby Academy and the Scotland Women 2021 contracted players will also be furloughed, under the UK Government's Job Retention Scheme.

"Together, Scottish Rugby and Rugby Players Scotland have recognised that we need to take appropriate measures as a result of this," said Scottish Rugby director of performance Jim Mallinder.

"This approach will allow us to protect our players and the organisation as much as possible through this uncertain period."


English football wage deferral deal struck 

The English Football League (EFL) has agreed a "compromise proposal" with the body representing the country's professional players, allowing clubs to defer 25 percent of their wages for April, amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

Professional soccer in England has been suspended since March 13, due to the pandemic, with several clubs putting non-playing staff on leave.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) previously accepted that players would have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the impact of the virus, which has infected nearly two million people globally, killing more than 119,000.

"In order to deal with the most immediate payroll issue, the EFL is recommending to clubs that local discussions are held with players in respect of the month of April only," the EFL said.

"A compromise proposal has been agreed between the EFL and the PFA for those clubs engaged in deferral negotiations with their players, meaning that up to a maximum of 25 percent of players' wages for April may be conditionally deferred."

The EFL and PFA will also form a working group of six club captains/PFA delegates from League One and Two, supported by a representative nominated by the PFA, to engage in dialogue in respect of players' wages.

"While the working group will not be a formal negotiating body, it will help to ensure that players are fully informed as they continue to hold discussions with individual clubs," the EFL added.


German soccer could face a year without fans

Sarpreet Singh and Coutinho
Sarpreet Singh and Coutinho Photo credit: Getty

German soccer fans may have to wait for more than a year, before they can attend matches again, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Play in Germany is suspended until at least April 30, and clubs and officials hope that they could then complete the season interrupted in mid-March from May onwards in empty stadiums.

That will largely depend on government decisions. Strict lockdown measures in the country have been imposed until April 19, and Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the federal states are to discuss the next steps on Wednesday.

Gerald Haug, president of the influential Leopoldina science academy, says fans will have to be patient for a much longer time, before they can be permitted back into stadiums.

"It will certainly be many months, but it could also be up to a year-and-a-half," Haug told public broadcaster ARD.

Haug says it would "certainly be wise" not to open the stadiums as long as there is no vaccine for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the German soccer league (DFL) has delayed a meeting of clubs that was expected to set out a timetable for resuming games in empty stadiums.

The DFL said it wanted to give the 36 Bundesliga and second-division clubs an additional six days to prepare for upcoming decisions, which are to be reached "based on political decisions in the country and federal states for next week".