May 15, 2020 / 5:21 AM / 2 months ago

Rugby Australia receives $9 million lifeline from World Rugby

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rugby Australia (RA) said on Friday it had secured A$14.2 million ($9.16 million) in funding from the game’s global governing body to help it through the financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Interim Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke holds a news conference amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Rugby Australia headquarters in Sydney, Australia, May 7, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

RA said the funding from World Rugby would provide it with “certainty” for the next 12 months and allow it to finally sign off on its 2019 accounts after auditors declined to do so in March amid doubts over the future viability of its business.

“The funding, in combination with the extensive cuts made across the business, provides us with the short-term impetus to see through the pandemic but does not solve all of the challenges,” RA interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said in a statement.

“The Board is continuing to work through its plans for organisational reform and additionally there are key conversations to be had across the game’s stakeholders about our Rugby offering for 2020 and beyond.”

The announcement came shortly after World Rugby confirmed it was postponing all July internationals, dealing another blow to RA’s finances.

Australia were to host Ireland in a two-match test series and a one-off test against Fiji.

“This was an outcome we were anticipating, and we are planning accordingly to host the fixtures later in the year, if possible, and will continue to work with World Rugby to identify a new window within the international calendar to stage the matches,” Clarke said.

Earlier on Friday, RA said it had appointed former television and media executive Hamish McLennan as a director and chairman-elect.

McLennan is to join the board at its next meeting on June 15, filling the seat vacated by Peter Wiggs, who resigned earlier this month after less than six weeks in the role.

McLennan will also replace interim chairman McLean, who took over the role in February after Cameron Clyne stepped down.

“Hamish is a lifelong rugby man and is passionate about uniting the game,” McLean said in the statement.

“His immediate focus with the board is on ensuring the game navigates the next few months while reshaping the rugby economy for a sustainable future to ensure the game remains healthy and strong at the community level.”

RA, which is also struggling to finalise a new broadcasting agreement for 2021 and beyond, had CEO Raelene Castle quit last month after the board lost confidence in her leadership.

McLennan is a former managing director of Australia’s free-to-air broadcaster Network Ten and executive vice president at media group News Corp.

He is currently the deputy chairman of global equity fund Magellan Financial Group.

($1 = 1.5499 Australian dollars)

Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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