Fiery meeting that could decide Castle’s fate
Rugby Australia's embattled chief executive Raelene Castle will finally meet with the angry players' union (RUPA) on Sunday to try to piece together an agreement on how much money they'll have to forfeit because of the massive financial hole the game is in.
Castle has agreed to give up 50 per cent of her own $840,000-a-year salary but is facing increasing calls to be punted from her job because of her handling of the game's finances, which Wallaby legend Nick Farr-Jones described as "a hole in the doughnut".
Exasperated players still haven't a clue how much they'll be out of pocket after accusing RA of shutting them out of negotiations and refusing to open their books, but they are about to find out the grim news.
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No sooner had reports emerged that Castle had lost the backing of her most loyal supporters and the game's most influential people wanted respected former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns to replace her, the missing paperwork turned up on RUPA's door.
"The Rugby Union Players Association welcomes the receipt at 0804 this morning of the financial information first requested from Rugby Australia almost a month ago," RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison said.
"RUPA has at all times been ready to enter proper negotiations as soon as transparent financial information was provided. We now look forward to a meaningful discussion."
That meeting will take place on Sunday afternoon. The players know they'll take a hit but Harrison has warned them it could take weeks before they find out after RA dragged its heels getting to the negotiating table. It's no secret that rugby is in strife, but it's the fallout with players that's been the tipping point for changes at the top.
While Castle is still on more than $400,000 a year, more than 100 staff were stood down during the week.
And no one knows when matches will resume, with the Super Rugby season doomed and the July inbound Tests expected to be cancelled by the end of April.
With no broadcast deal in place beyond this season and the global economy under siege, the future looks even more uncertain, raising concerns about how much and how long RA can pay its 192 professional players once they do cut a deal.
"Rugby Australia has and will continue to act in the best interests of all its members, including players, for the greater good of the game," Castle and RA chairman Paul McLean said in a joint statement.
"It has made significant cuts across the game, with cost savings of over 75 per cent as a result of the announcements made earlier in the week on changes to its workforce.
"We look forward to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement given the current circumstances the game is facing."
Speaking on Triple M radio, Australia's 1991 World Cup-winning skipper Farr-Jones delivered a scathing assessment of RA, calling for the entire RA board to be dumped because the financial woes the game now finds itself in began long before the coronavirus pandemic. "Rugby has managed the game atrociously," Farr-Jones said.
Originally published as Fiery meeting that could decide Castle's fate