Rugby Australia will roll out a three-month survival plan in a bid to save Super Rugby franchises as from financial disaster as the game begins cutting costs to cope with a shutdown.
But there are fears the ACT Brumbies are at risk of becoming a silent partner in Australian rugby after being denied boardroom representation at a critical point in Super Rugby history.
Brumbies legend Joe Roff was overlooked for a position on the RA board, which was widely expected but has still sparked concerns in the capital given the uncertain climate of professional sport.
RA and Super Rugby teams are expected to slash jobs, while head office chief executive Raelene Castle will take a 50 per cent cut to her $800,000 salary after announcing a $9.4 million deficit at the annual general meeting on Monday.
"As a playing group, the members take an indication that pay cuts of between 30 and 50 per cent are considered adequate to help nurse the game through this crisis ... Our fear was [the game] was in a financial black hole."
But Roff's omission has raised a separate issue in Canberra, with the Brumbies no longer having a powerful voice at the table for rugby's biggest decisions.
The Brumbies' finances will be laid bare at a board meeting this week as the club discusses ways to remain viable despite the Super Rugby cancellation.
The Brumbies are confident they will remain solvent despite the uncertain times. But they have been in a precarious financial position for the past decade and the fact they do not have a RA board representative has created concerns about the future.
Former Brumbies captain Brett Robinson resigned from the RA board, but hopes Roff would be one of the newly appointed directors were dashed. Paul McLean will remain as chairman, while Peter Wiggs, Brett Godfrey and Daniel Herbert were appointed.
The hope is Roff will be added to the board at some point this year when more changes are made, but there is no guarantee that will happen.
It leaves the Brumbies - Australia's most successful team - without a seat at the table after Robinson's nine-year tenure ended.
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The concern is that if cost-saving measures turn to reducing the number of Australian teams, there will be no one with links to Canberra to fight for the Brumbies' future.
The Brumbies survived the last Super Rugby cull in 2016, but they would be forced to duel with the Melbourne Rebels for survival if it was decided to cut another team.
Castle, however, said RA is determined to make sure all four teams remain viable, while the Western Force and billionaire backer Andrew Forrest could rejoin the Australian rugby picture.
"Survival for the next three months is the most important piece, and then we can sit down as a sport ... have a think tank to bring together the key stakeholders to think about scenarios," Castle said.
"At the moment we [want to] deliver a Super Rugby structure with four Super Rugby teams. That's the model we will be working to, but it will be crazy to not be thinking about other scenarios that might roll out.
"We do have enough cash to be cash positive at the end of the three-month period. That's a good start point.
"Part of the three-month rolling process we've put in place is to ensure the grants to all of our member unions stay in place ... that will allow them to make sensible decisions and give us time to work through what the next six months looks like."
Castle will meet with the Rugby Union Players Association on Tuesday to discuss likely salary cuts to help the game navigate the biggest problem since turning professional in 1996.
The Brumbies have turned profits in the past two years, but low crowds to start the season and the coronavirus shutdown have put pressure on the club's coffers.
The ACT Rugby Union board will discuss staffing levels and cost-saving measures at the board meeting on Tuesday as players continue to train in isolated groups.
Rookie playmaker Noah Lolesio got off to a dream start result wise, winning five of six games played. But his debut season has been a sideshow to smoke, fire, the mumps and coronavirus distractions.
"We've had a bit of a rough start outside of the footy but we can only control what we can do," Lolesio said.
"Obviously the stuff that's happening around the cities is out of our control, so it's obviously difficult times for us at the moment but hopefully we just stay together and get through it."