Rugby Australia has been accused of locking players out of critical talks about their future as the beleaguered governing body struggles to navigate a way through the coronavirus shutdown.
Like elsewhere, rugby in Australia has ground to a halt with the sport’s bosses facing major financial problems as revenue dries up.
But unlike rugby league and Australian Rules, which have worked with their respective players to chart a way forward, the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) said it had been sidelined.
“Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players Association should be partners in this process to navigate their way together through this crisis,” RUPA chief Justin Harrison said in a statement late Sunday.
“RUPA members and the game’s stakeholders are frustrated. There is a vacuum of information,” he said.
“While our colleagues in the other major football codes across Australia have been meeting with their governing bodies for weeks, RA has refused to share any information about the future financial direction of the game.”
Rugby Australia had no immediate comment but was due to hold its annual general meeting on Monday, when its financial position and a road forward could become clearer.
It was already facing tough financial times after a lacklustre season by the Wallabies last year and a hefty payout to sacked player Israel Folau.
Now it is set to lose broadcast rights money with a proposed domestic tournament to replace the suspended Super Rugby competition shelved due to the pandemic and serious doubts about whether home Tests against Ireland and Fiji in July will take place.
RUPA chiefs demanded face-to-face meetings with Rugby Australia’s top brass to work out how to proceed, admitting pay cuts were likely to help get the sport through the crisis.
“There is acknowledgement by the players that unprecedented action is needed,” said RUPA president and Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.
“This is a critical time and the players have sought the opportunity to constructively contribute to a solution. To date RA has refused to provide us that opportunity.”