Rugby Australia (RA) interim CEO Rob Clarke wants a swift return to play and to get a handle on the organisation’s financial state.
Clarke outlined his two key objectives at his first media conference in the role on Thursday, having met with board members on Zoom beforehand.
The former Brumbies and Rebels CEO has replaced Raelene Castle after her controversial reign came to an end last month.
He is in no doubt as to the scale of the task facing him, with rugby on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a huge monetary impact.
“There’s a lot to be done,” said Clarke. “The game has gone through a very, very challenging period and the first item on the agenda is to get ourselves playing around the country again.
“I’m delighted with the plans that have been put into place with the team here, we’re well positioned for when the restrictions are lifted and will enable us to get rugby played at both a community level and a professional level as soon as we possibly can.”
Clarke revealed proposals had been put to the Australian government for the sport to return, with July the earliest date play could resume at the elite level.
“[At the] professional level, our plans have been submitted to the government,” he said.
“Assuming that restrictions are lifted as we hope in the next week or so, we would aim to be playing in possibly July with training starting in June, but of course it’s all tied to restrictions.
“The government has our proposal and I hope they view it favourably and that will give us a rough time frame.”
Rob Clarke appointed @RugbyAU interim CEO.
— Rugby Australia (@RugbyAU) May 6, 2020
Prior to her departure, Castle announced provisional losses of $9.4million for RA in 2019, with a much larger deficit – reported as up to $120m – on the books for 2020 if rugby does not return this year.
Clarke, however, is hopeful a World Rugby bailout will ease RA’s worries.
“That is something that is absolute priority, clearly the game is not in healthy financial shape, we know that, the exact details I’ll get across in coming days,” he said.
“I’m confident that World Rugby money is secure and that will be approved imminently and that goes a long way to relieving some immediate financial pressures. But I need a little bit more time to get under the numbers and understanding where we’re at.”
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