South Sydney supremo Shane Richardson has quit his role at the NRL club to save the Rabbitohs money during the season shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Richardson informed Souths staff on Thursday morning of his decision, resigning as the head of football.
He became the first high-profile NRL figure to permanently leave his job as a result of the premiership postponement due to the virus, which is tipped to cost both the game and its clubs millions.
Richardson, who was due to leave the Rabbitohs at the end of next year, will remain around as a consultant but will no longer be on the full-time books.
“In times like these, leaders have to step forward and lead,” Richardson said.
“When we were reviewing things with (CEO) Blake (Solly) early in the week, it became very clear to me on Tuesday that I needed to step down.
“The cost of having me remain in the football department was one of our largest costs and as a club we need to cut the cloth to suit the suit.
“No one pushed me into this decision. It became very obvious to me that this was a decision that needed to be made for the next 18 months for the club.”
Richardson is one of the NRL’s longest-serving administrators, having been at Cronulla through the Super League war and in charge of Penrith when they won the premiership in 2003.
He joined Souths shortly after as chief executive, and guided them out of turmoil and into financial security under the new private ownership model.
He then helped them to their drought-breaking title in 2014, before joining the NRL for a year and returning as the Rabbitohs head of football in early 2016.
“Shane has been the heart of the Rabbitohs for the past 16 years and he has offered great service to the club throughout this period,” chairman Nick Pappas said.
“He has seen the club rise from the very bottom to the very top, as is evidenced by our premiership-victory in 2014.
“We owe him a debt of gratitude for his commitment to the club over an extended period of time.”
Richardson’s departure comes as NRL clubs brace for their biggest ever financial challenges during the stop in play.
Several clubs have already asked staff to take leave, with almost half of the competition’s head coaches now sidelined.