Waratahs boss Paul Doorn says the organisation will lose more potential recruits like Kyle Godwin and be unable to re-sign players such as Ned Hanigan until it receives clarity from Rugby Australia about the value of a new broadcast deal.
It comes as hope grows that a successful Australia-based Rugby Championship can bolster the code’s popularity and improve its future financial position.
In the aftermath of a “disappointing” season, during which the Waratahs finished second last in Super Rugby AU, Doorn understands COVID-19 has thrown a major spanner in the works. But he said there was frustration about the uncertainty heading into next year.
As revealed by the Herald last month, the Waratahs have taken a more cautious approach than their Super Rugby counterparts, considering slashing $1 million off their player salary budget.
While other teams continue to sign players in anticipation of a favourable broadcast deal, Doorn said the risk mitigation advice NSW had been given was that it would be « crazy » to continue signing players as normal.
RA has begun formal negotiations regarding a new broadcast deal from next year. While it is unclear how many broadcasters registered interest, Foxtel and Network 10, who show rugby at present, are understood to both be at the table.
There was understandable excitement on Friday on their behalf when Australia managed to secure hosting rights for a six-week Rugby Championship tournament.
The November and early December time slot is a winner by way of there being no other major football code on TV on weekends, and interim RA chief executive Rob Clarke believes rugby’s golden opportunity can be a win for broadcasters, too.
“I know the broadcasters are very excited by it, and so they should be,” Clarke said. “I know Fox and Ten will love the fact they’re getting such quality rugby at that time of the year and it will drive, I hope, some subscriptions and viewership for them.”
Clarke wouldn’t talk about ongoing broadcast discussions, but there are rumblings inside Super Rugby franchises still in the dark about what they can and can’t do.
There is also the stark reality that if the Rugby Championship had to be cancelled, due to a COVID-19 outbreak or another issue, the rest of this year’s broadcast money would not flow in, a situation that would have a trickle-down effect for everyone in the game.
It’s why RA and the NSW government are going to such extreme lengths to make sure arriving teams, such as those from Argentina who have had players test positive to COVID-19, will be isolated in a hub with strict protocols enforced to ensure the tournament goes ahead.
“The message to Rugby Australia is we’re just desperate for them to get the best possible outcome and to know as soon as we possibly can,” Doorn said. “The only assurances we’ve got from Rugby Australia include our funding for this quarter and the final quarter of the year. That’s as far as it goes. I don’t want to comment at all about the discussions with Rugby Australia, clearly because that’s a commercially sensitive time for those guys.
“If and when the financials of next year and televisions deals are known, and our funding with Rugby Australia is known, then we’ve got an ability to be able to grow into that. You’ve just got to be a bit careful that you don’t overcommit or fully commit at this point in time.”
The Waratahs have had to be very selective with who they sign and it has cost them a couple of big names. While they’ve announced Will Harrison and Jack Maddocks will be on the books next year, the club could not come to an agreement with Force centre Godwin, who was all but a done deal to come to NSW.
There’s also 20-Test Hanigan, who Doorn said was a player they wanted to keep but, given the circumstances, wasn’t able to hold onto.
“We’ve not been able to secure some of the players back when the freeze was first lifted,” Doorn said. “The Ned Hanigans and those guys we would have loved to have kept but just weren’t in a position at that point in time. It has been challenging to say the least. Our goal here is to put together the best possible roster that we can but still live within our means for 2021.
“Everyone fully appreciates where we’re at. Even I would say there are levels of frustration, not with the business, just the environment we’re living in.”
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Donnez votre point de vue et aboonez-vous!
Votre point de vue compte, donnez votre avis
[maxbutton id= »1″]