Super Rugby 2020: Highlanders begin pay cuts as financial strain takes toll

The Highlanders have become the first Kiwi Super Rugby franchise to cut pay for its staff.

NZ Rugby's $1.5 million emergency grant is a welcome injection, but it isn't enough to maintain the status quo. 

Officials are doing all they can to keep the southern franchise afloat, but the reality of no Super Rugby is starting to hit home for the Highlanders.

"Our business, with no product or no content, means no dollars and our reserves have been burnt up pretty quickly," chief executive Roger Clark told Newshub.

Wednesday's injection of $250,000 from NZR was welcomed, but it's merely a drop in the bucket.

"It's probably more than $500,000 a month to run a Super Rugby club, so we've already taken across-the-board 30 percent cuts and we've frozen all expenditure," says Clark.

The Highlanders aren't alone. The Crusaders are currently consulting with their staff, the Hurricanes are considering their options, but the Chiefs aren't commenting.

For the Blues, the bailout has bought some time, at least.

"We've got a lot of decisions to make about what's going to happen moving forward," admitted CEO Andrew Hore. 

"We just need some breathing space to allow those discussions to continue and this has been well received."

Any revenue is like gold dust and keeping sponsors on board is essential for the Highlanders, who are in the most precarious position.

"None of them have cancelled on us," said Clark. "Some have deferred already, because some of their businesses, like ours, are not getting any money in, so they can't afford to pay at this stage."

The picture looks pretty bleak for the Highlanders, with staff fearing the worst, if rugby doesn't return this year.

But even if that happens, the 2015 champions are vowing to stick around.

"We will survive," said Clark. "We just don't know in what shape that will be.

"We're just trying to make sure it's the best shape we can possibly be in."

Southern pride has never been so tested.

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