ANALYSIS | SA Rugby staring down the barrel of financial ruin should Covid-19 derail the Springboks in 2020
If the coronavirus doesn’t knock-out cash strapped SA Rugby‚ then World Rugby’s inability to deliver a clear pathway for the game during and post the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to deliver the killer blow.
World Rugby’s failure to find agreement on a roster for Test playing nations for the remainder of the year‚ not to mention their much trumpeted global calendar‚ has plunged the game deeper into uncertainty.
The game’s governing body is set to meet on Monday after an earlier remote conference was postponed and the stakes are high.
Apart from the uncertainty that has accompanied the pandemic‚ World Rugby is at odds with the European rugby’s top leagues.
They cannot agree on the structure that will provide a framework for a new global calendar that is supposed to align the Test roster on both sides of the equator.
The clubs feel their needs aren’t adequately addressed in the current proposal which makes provision for an extended October/November Test window.
It means the European season will conclude in July or potentially August and the clubs argue that the current two-Test window suits them better.
The rather significant stumbling block World Rugby has is the leverage the clubs have over the players.
The clubs‚ and not the national federations‚ hold the players’ primary contracts‚ which means‚ they are unlikely to release their players for national duty unless an agreement is reached.
While the sport remains suspended in a state of paralysis‚ SA Rugby is staring down the barrel of financial ruin should the Springboks be precluded from playing this year due to Covid-19 restrictions and border closures.
The Springboks‚ who were crowned Rugby World Cup winners in Yokohama last year and went to the top of the world rankings‚ would have been a big draw card this year‚ but the global lockdown has denied them the opportunity to bask in the afterglow of that success.
While finding a pathway back to training and the playing field have proved frustrating‚ given lockdown restrictions in South Africa‚ SA Rugby has been reduced to the status of bystanders as the game flickers back to life elsewhere.
Already their Tests against Scotland and Georgia scheduled for July have been postponed indefinitely‚ while they will grow increasingly anxious as the originally planned kick-off to the Rugby Championship draws closer.
They had hoped to recoup some of their losses on the four-match end of year tour to Europe but that now looks unlikely as the Six Nations teams instead turned their focus to an eight-team tournament that includes Japan and Fiji.
They have done that amid increasing uncertainty over when sports teams will be allowed to travel from New Zealand‚ Australia‚ South Africa and Argentina.
Having no matches to deliver to their broadcasters and sponsors have had a devastating impact on SA Rugby’s finances‚ that to be fair‚ had been precarious before the pandemic struck.
SA Rugby showed a modest post tax profit in 2019 of R8.5m.
In 2016 they were R15.7m in the red‚ in 2017 they suffered a R62.4m net loss before things improved with a R2m profit for 2018.
To mitigate the impact of Covid-19 they put in place their Industry Financial Impact Plan‚ which is aimed at cutting R1.2bn from the budget of the entire South African rugby industry.
That‚ however‚ is premised on their ability to generate some income but as things stand their future looks decidedly bleak.