World Rugby relief fund no magic bullet for unions affected by COVID-19: Beaumont

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has admitted an $A158 million relief will not be a silver bullet for unions hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia and New Zealand expect to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with Rugby AU projection $120 million in lost revenue should no rugby be played this year.

The Australian body has already stood down three-quarters of its staff until June 30 with wide-ranging salary and hour reductions for the remainder of their staff, while CEO Raelene Castle resigned last month.

New Zealand Rugby has also projected severe losses for the remainder of 2020 and it was reported on Monday that the organisation is planning for redundancies in the coming weeks.

While the upcoming July Tests have not been officially cancelled, it is all but impossible to see them going ahead as planned though the option of a Bledisloe series in the final quarter of the year appears to be the most likely chance for international rugby.

Asked whether the recently announced relief fund was enough to save troubled unions, Beaumont admitted it might not be a panacea for every union but it is hoped that the fund will give unions an injection of cash that will help tide them over until 

Bill Beaumont says World Rugby's relief fund isn't a guaranteed saviour. Photo: Getty ImagesRugby Australia is one of the unions who has applied for a combination of loans and advances, reportedly up to $15 million, but it is not clear when the approval process for any loans will be approved.

World Rugby as an organisation is in a strong position, able to set up the relief fund after receiving a large windfall from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

"We announced 75 million pounds three weeks ago that that is available in the form of loans to unions that are in distress," he said.

"I'm not kidding that's probably not enough, not enough money but in the world of sport  there's no magic money lying around the place.

"If we had been been talking 12 months ago and we haven't been fortunate enough to run a very successful Rugby world Cup in Japan then we would be facing a far bleaker outlook than at the moment.

"We're in a position where we can help unions, we realise that's not going to be enough for some unions but it might be for others.

"Hopefully what we will do is help the cash flow of unions, so hopefully they will be able to replay some postponed games going forward that then will relive the real cash pressure that unions are facing.

"It's the cash that kills a business, if you've no cash that's what makes life very, very difficult.

"That's why we've made this money available and we've got a system for allocating that which is underway at the moment."

The World Rugby fund was set up with a view to keeping unions afloat until the end of the year and then reassessing the situation moving forward from there, with optimism that sports will be able to resume by then according to government advice.

The Women's Rugby World Cup will be held in New Zealand in 2021. Photo: Getty ImagesThere has been concerns for women's sport around the world with the vast cost-cutting measures being introduced but Beaumont said World Rugby was still committed to delivering its women's plans.

New Zealand is set to host the 2021 Rugby World Cup, an event that will come just months after the Olympics Sevens, and World Rugby also has plans for a global competition that will emulate their ideas 

Australia's Wallaroos were set to expand their program this year but many of those plans have had to be paused amid the coronavirus restrictions.

"I'm challenging the World Rugby executive to say. 'Look we have to find the money, we've committed to these competitions and we have to find the money for it'," Beaumont said.

"We can't just stop everything for the current coronavirus.

"This was part of our long-term plan it's been passed by our World Rugby executive, it's been passed by our rugby committee, it's been passed by the women's committee.

"It's a commitment that hopefully we can get this up and running as soon as feasibly possible. When you have travel inter-hemisphere, the men's game is affected the same as the women's going forward."

The timeline on the introduction of a women's global competition, that could see southern and northern hemisphere teams play each other annually, is not clear but Beaumont said plans wouldn't be delayed because of the pandemic.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Rugby Australia or its state and member unions.