ARU CEO Bill Pulver says the governing body has not abandoned club Rugby, but rather changed its strategy around direct funding.
Speaking to the rugby.com.au podcast, Pulver said while the ARU was not giving cash directly to local clubs, funding was finding its way to suburban Rugby in a bid to grow the game more widely.
“It’s really not a lack of club funding, it’s the direction of the funding,” he said.
“We have a ton of funding going into that part of the game.
“We just don't give it directly by way of a cheque to the presidents of the Shute Shield clubs.”
The ARU announced its five-year strategic plan this week and Pulver said there were a number of initiatives within to boost suburban support.
“We’ve set up half a million dollars to invest in Western Sydney which is all around club rugby,” he said.
“We’ve set aside 350,000 to invest in coverage of Shute Shield on Free-to-air Television, which is all about Club Rugby.
“We’ve added 50 per cent to the number of development officers out there to bring more kids into the game that ultimately supports club rugby.
“We are reluctant to write cheques individually to each club and that reluctance is borne out of historically a bit of a temptation to pay players for what is an amateur level of the game.
“There is a ton of investment going into NSW and club rugby but in ways we think will drive participation growth and drive revenue for them.”
Pulver was also pragmatic about the recent $9.8 million loss announced at the ARU AGM, with the tide set to turn in coming years.
“We’re forecasting a surplus over the next five years, in every year except for 2019,” he said.
“We’re on much more stable financial footing now.”
Listen to the full podcast below.