Pulver warns of receivership without change
ESPN Staff
February 13, 2014
ARU CEO Bill Pulver faces the media  during the 2013 Australian Super Rugby launch at Sketch, Central Pier, Melbourne, February 13, 2013
Bill Pulver - outlined some harsh financial realities © Getty Images

Australian Super Rugby players face the prospect of pay cuts as the Australian board (ARU) seeks to keep the code out of receivership, but chief executive Bill Pulver denied the board will axe a franchise in order to cut costs.

Pulver, who has repeatedly highlighted the game's financial problems, said ahead of the Super Rugby season launch in Sydney that "the financial model is not sustainable".

"The ARU finished last year with Aus$10 million of cash and Aus$140-odd million of revenue," Pulver said. "The revenue is going to drop this year to Aus$100 million, and next year it will drop to Aus$80 million in a World Cup year. The financial model is not sustainable.

"There's nothing I can do about it except try and fix it. We have taken a massive amount of cost out of the ARU. Across the board we are trying to get the financial model back in shape. Not getting the financial model back in shape is not an option. Ultimately you go into receivership."

Pulver said the union's finances were in a precarious state because it propped up unprofitable Super Rugby franchises.

"When you understand the financial trends we have in the ARU, and we are the lender of last resort [to Super Rugby sides], you don't have to be a financial genius to understand we are going to hit a wall at some point. We need to make change."

ESPNscrum columnist Greg Growden has been forthright in suggesting the union should axe a Super Rugby franchise, for reasons of finances as well as developing the playing depth at the remaining four sides to make them more viable, but Pulver is "very committed to the national footprint for rugby".

"We are going to get the strategy right. We are going to rebuild the game. And when we do, if we don't have a team in one of those major cities we will be rueing the day we let it go."

Pulver said players had already made significant concessions to help the game, noting that Wallabies "allowed their match payments at a Test level to drop from Aus$14,000 to Aus$10,000 … and they walked away from their claim to a share of the profits to the Lions tour" and that the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated in 2013 had introduced for the first time a Super Rugby salary cap.

Pulver said the union would remain in dialogue with RUPA, the Australian players union, as "the game's financial model needs more work and therefore everything is in play" including the prospect for reduced salaries for Super Rugby players.

Australia launched its Super Rugby season with a ceremony that involved the fans
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