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Dwindling Crowds hit Wellington Rugby

April 16, 2010
A combination of poor crowds, shrinking sponsorship income and a hefty player wage bill resulted in the Wellington Rugby Football Union losing more than $500,000 in 2009, according to its latest annual report reveals.
The loss came despite Wellington cutting costs by almost $800,000, cuts that saw $250,000 removed from the funding of grass roots rugby and, according to Greg Peters, the Wellington and Hurricanes Chief Executive the loss of â4.5 fulltime equivalent positions last year out of the administration side of the business."
The union has also made cuts to its marketing and representative team programmes.
Match revenue fell $502,000 last year, mainly because Wellington hosted the 2008 National Provincial Championship (NPC) final, but Peters accepted rugby fans were staying away. "Over the last three years, Hurricanes crowds are down 38% and Lions crowds are down 24%."
Another factor for the heavy financial loss was a "flawed" player payment model, Peters explaining that âthe number of All Blacks that we had last year, and Super 14 players (are) an expensive player group.�?
Sponsorship revenue fell by $286,000, but major sponsors Vodafone and Canterbury have renewed their deals.
"When other unions have faced even greater difficulties, we're very thankful that our key partners have stayed with us, largely," Peters added.
Peters believes that Wellington remains in a strong financial position, with net equity of $5.5 million and reserves of $2.3 million.
"These sort of tough times are exactly why you have reserves put away. To get you through some tough times so you don't need to take a kneejerk reaction that could have long-term negative impact."
Other New Zealand unions are also hurting financially, Peters explaining that âwe need to look at re-invigorating the game on the field and trying to attract our fans back to watch the game, which is a bit bigger issue than just Wellington's.
âThe financial position we find ourselves in is not dissimilar to other unions and the NZRU is about to announce a multi-million dollar loss."
Overall Super 14 crowds are dwindling while recent studies suggest that Kiwis are losing interest in rugby union with their waning passion for New Zealandâs national game being replaced by an increasing interest in Rugby League.

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