Professional rugby freezes 50 percent of forecasted player payments in response to COVID-19 pandemic

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) have today agreed to a range of payment changes that apply predominantly to players contracted at Super Rugby level (including All Blacks), in the national sevens programmes and Black Ferns.

NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said: “Like most businesses, people are your greatest asset, and our staff and players are most certainly our number one priority. We wanted to come up with solutions that worked for all our players and ensured that all sectors of our game were sharing in the financial pain we are currently enduring.”

NZRPA Chief Executive Rob Nichol said: “The players are committed to playing their part in ensuring the long-term future of the sport and to ensure the game best manages the financial implications of Covid-19.

“In contemplating a scenario based on no professional rugby in 2020, NZR and the NZRPA together recognised the need to act now to prepare the game and the players for this, even if there is every intention of doing all we can to avoid it.

“As a result, we have agreed to immediately freeze approximately $25 million, or 50 percent, of the remaining forecasted player spend in 2020.

“In the event that this financial scenario eventuates, the frozen payments and benefits would become waived permanently. Alternatively, if professional rugby can resume and the financial outlook improves, then some of the frozen payments and benefits could be reinstated,” said Nichol

The expenditure freeze covers the base salary of players, assembly payments and other financial benefits and incentives, as well as reductions in player-funded welfare and development activities.

NZR Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum added: “Our payment model is complex and it has taken time to determine a model that treats all players equitably. The model we have agreed protects those on retainers of less than $50,000. While not all players are being treated exactly the same, we felt these changes were the fairest way to address player payments and benefits, considering all the different ways our players are remunerated.”

Nichol said in addition to consulting with players they have also ensured players have access to quality advice and support so they can act now to best manage the implications of these changes.

“Moving forward, the players remain committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure the game survives and is best placed to take advantage of the opportunity to get back up and running as soon as is safely possible,” said Nichol.

Robinson added everyone was putting their best foot forward for when the sport could kick off again.

“The players signalled their desire to play their part right from the get-go and the conversations over the past few weeks have been very constructive. It was vital the sport was ready for whenever we can get back on the field,” Robinson said.

Nichol said they were still working with NZR and Provincial Unions on what would happen with Provincial Union contracts.