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Monday's coronavirus roundup: USA Rugby files for bankruptcy amid shutdown

Detroit News wire services

USA Rugby has decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because its financial woes have been exacerbated by the coronavirus shutdown.

In financial strife since 2018, USA Rugby’s recent attempt to restructure was set back this month when it had to suspend all activities indefinitely in the face of the pandemic.

USA Rugby hosted the World Rugby Sevens Series  in 2018.

The loss of spring and summer membership dues, and sponsorship pullback, has “resulted in significant loss of revenue,” and the sport’s national board and congress agreed on Sunday that filing for Chapter 11 combined with more approved loans from World Rugby were “the best platform to swiftly and efficiently address challenges and deliver a foundation for future stability.”

“The current suspension of sanctioned rugby activities caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the existing financial challenges facing the union, and a reorganization process will now be progressed with input from World Rugby,” USA Rugby said in a statement on Monday.

The measure will protect and support the men’s and women’s national sevens and 15s programs, the body said.

Colorado-based USA Rugby posted a loss of more than $4 million in 2018 after making huge losses on the poorly attended Wales-South Africa test in Washington, and then the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.

There was more issues last year when more than $1 million was drawn away by legal fees, and preparing the men’s 15s squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan caused overspending by $825,000.

Late last year, USA Rugby began shrinking its office, reducing costs, and decentralizing to give stakeholders more independence from the national body.

MLS envisions 34-game schedule

Atlanta United President Darren Eales says Major League Soccer still intends to play a full 34-game schedule this season, even though the league will be shuttered for at least two months because of the new coronavirus.

Eales says MLS is more fortunate than other leagues around the world that play the traditional fall-to-spring schedule and may have trouble completing their seasons in such a compressed time frame.

MLS was just two weeks into its season when play was halted March 12 because of the pandemic.

The league has set a tentative return date of May 10, though the growing death toll in the United States could force that date to be pushed back.

Eales says everything is on the table, including the possibility of resuming league play in empty stadiums.

Messi takes hefty pay cut

In a letter critical of Barcelona club officials, Lionel Messi and his teammates said they are taking a 70% cut in salaries because of the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Barcelona players wrote in a social media post that they will also make donations so other club employees are not badly affected by the upheaval.

“We would like to make it clear that we have always wanted to reduce our salaries as we perfectly understand that this is an exceptional situation and we always were the first ones to help the club when it asked,” they said in the letter.

“Actually, we have done that on our own in moments when we felt it was necessary or important.

“Therefore, it surprises us that within the club there were those who wanted to put us under scrutiny and tried to put us under pressure to do something that we always knew we would be doing.”

Red Bull proposes F1 camp

An official at Formula One team Red Bull has proposed holding a training camp that would expose drivers to the coronavirus so they could build immunity to the disease while the season is suspended.

The idea by motorsport adviser Helmut Marko was rejected by the team.

Marko said it would be good for the team’s drivers to be infected now so they could recover in time for scheduled races later in the year.

“We have four Formula One drivers, we have eight or 10 juniors and the idea was to hold a camp where we could bridge this rather dead time mentally and physically,” Marko told Austrian public broadcaster ORF on Sunday.