New Zealand Rugby announces staff paycuts, Super Rugby lifeline

NZ Rugby has unveiled an emergency grant to its five Super Rugby teams to have them afloat and ready, whenever the competition resumes.

On the same day that he confirmed staff pay cuts across the organisation, NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson announced the distribution of $250,000 each to the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.

The money could be used for the next three months as a "critical supplement" to other financing options in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, Robinson said.

Kiwi Super Rugby teams earn most of their revenue through private commercial backing and gate-takings, but both streams were pummelled, when the competition was suspended two weeks ago.

A bid to launch a New Zealand-only competition fell over, when the Government announced tight national restrictions to combat COVID-19.

The current franchise licences are to expire in September and Robinson said negotiations for the next term would go on hold.

That would allow NZ Rugby to review its governance of the competition and ensure it was sustainable.

"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," Robinson said.

"And also be in a position to revive and participate in Super Rugby - in whatever shape it takes - in 2021 and beyond."

He confirmed New Zealand's 26 provincial unions would receive their full quarterly funding from a pool of about $30 million this month, but couldn't guarantee that would continue later this year.

Earlier, NZ Rugby confirmed staff would take a 20 percent pay cut across the board, which a spokesperson said would have been worse, were it not for the assistance of the NZ Government's wage-subsidy scheme.

The measures compare favourably with Rugby Australia, which announced on Tuesday night that three-quarters of its staff - about 100 people - would be stood down, while the remainder were retained on drastically reduced salaries.

An agreement with New Zealand players over pay cuts is expected to be reached next week.

Robinson has estimated his organisation will suffer revenue loss in excess of $NZ100 million this year in a worst-case scenario, under which no top-level rugby is played.