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COVID impact sees Rugby Australia reveal $27.1 million loss for 2020

COVID impact sees Rugby Australia reveal $27.1 million loss for 2020
April 29, 2021

Rugby Australia’s financial results for 2020 show that it recorded a net deficit of $27.1 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the governing body losing so much money it even considered reverting to amateur status.

Revealing a $45.7 million reduction in revenue in 2020, Rugby Australia advised that its potential losses were reduced by $31.2 million in drastic cost-cutting measures.

Staff costs were reduced by $9.9 million (down 46%), a $7.7 million reduction in player costs (down 45%), an $8.1 million reduction in Member Union funding (down 28%), and other costs were reduced by $5.5 million.

Announcing the results today after the game's annual general meeting, Rugby Australia Chairman, Hamish McLennan explained “Australian rugby has been through some challenging years recently, but nothing could have prepared us for 2020.

“When the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear in late March, we were forced to shut down both professional and community Rugby across the country. The organisation was shaken to its core.

“It has been an extraordinary job just to survive. We will carry a very weak balance sheet into this year, in what will be a very testing time. This only highlights the importance of external investment as we look to alternate sources of funding to reinvest back into the game.

“Having said that, I’m encouraged by a number of positive actions recently. It is a testament to the strength, resilience and passion of the rugby community that we’ve made it to this point. As you can see, we’ve made huge sacrifices, but the difficult decisions we were forced to make in 2020 will set Australian Rugby up for a sustainable and successful future.”

Announced on the day that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) as approved a historic private equity deal, McLennan conceded that the crisis facing Rugby Australia had led to consideration “about the game potentially becoming amateur" and that consideration is now being given to following NZR’s example and looking to attract private equity.

McLennan said he felt Rugby Australia had weathered the worst part of the financial storm, with a string of international series planned to inject much-needed money into the game.

In a statement following its AGM, Rugby Australia highlighted what it called “significant achievements” over the last year, including:

• A new three-year (plus two-year option) broadcast agreement with Nine and Stan which includes Super Rugby live on free-to-air television for the first time in the competition’s history
• The introduction of the Super Rugby AU competition and the welcoming back of the Western Force to a new, five-team Australian-only competition. The inaugural Super Rugby AU Final was won by the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra
• Hosting of the eToro Tri-Nations Brisbane and New South Wales over six consecutive weeks
• Retaining $15.4 million of sponsorship revenue despite a significant reduction in commercial partner content
• The formation of a Rugby World Cup Bid Advisory Board, chaired by Sir Rod Eddington with the aim of hosting the 2027 Rugby World Cup

The AGM also included the election of Chairman Hamish McLennan along with two new Board Directors to join the Board immediately and a third new director elected to join the Board later in the year.

The new Directors are Dr Jane Wilson, Karen Penrose and Matthew Hanning while David Codey was elected as President, replacing outgoing President Tim Gavin.

Click here to view Rugby Australia’s 2020 Annual Report.

Images: The Wallabies at the 2019 Rugby World Cup (top) and the captains of the five Super Rugby AU teams at the 2021 season launch (below).

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