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Rugby Australia impacted by Western Force axeing and declining Test crowds

Rugby Australia impacted by Western Force axeing and declining Test crowds
April 9, 2018

Poor ticket sales for Test matches and costs relating to the axing of the Western Force Super Rugby franchises have led to the game's governing body announcing a $3.8 million operating deficit for its last financial year.

While Rugby Australia recorded a budget surplus of $17.8 million, more than four times last year's $3.7 million surplus, this was due to one-off funding of $21.6 million from the Federal Government for the building of the games new headquarters in Sydney’s Moore Park.

The $7.5 million reversal in Rugby Australia’s annual report is blamed on the axing of the Western Force amid the Super Rugby restructure and disappointing tickets sales for Wallabies Tests.

Just 54,846 turned out for the Wallabies' opening Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Sydney last August, the lowest crowd the fixture has drawn since it was moved to ANZ Stadium.

Rugby Australia says the decision to reduce Australia's Super Rugby teams from five to four was made to secure the code's immediate financial health and allow it to direct more meaningful investment to community rugby.

Rugby Australia Chairman Cameron Clyne, who presented the results and annual report at the game’s annual general meeting on Monday, acknowledged 2017 was "an incredibly difficult year" but said the game's grassroots would benefit from the call to axe the Force.

He advised “the difficult decision to remove a Super Rugby team was made with the game’s best interests at heart, but it resulted in a great deal of hardship

"Ultimately, we believe the decision will strengthen our code in the long term. We want to be able to invest more significantly in community rugby, something we have often been unable to do confidently over the past five years. We also want to improve our performances at the highest levels of the game and we will continue to invest in our new collaborative high-performance model.

"Despite the significant challenges of the past year, there were some great highlights, including huge participation growth in Women’s Rugby and Indigenous Rugby, and the inaugural Aon Uni 7s and advent of the Buildcorp Super W competitions to bolster our female pathways.

"At the community level we have also made great advancements in improving the safety of our game, which is crucial to continue to attract young boys and girls into the sport."

Women's rugby bucked the downward trend, with club XVs participation jumping 53% and club sevens participation growing 47%. The women's game benefited from help from the Australian Rugby Foundation (ARF), including a $234,000 grant to support the Wallaroos' World Cup campaign.

Elsewhere, indigenous participation grew 134% thanks to the Deadly Sevens program in schools. RA also strengthened its pathways, announcing the start of the Super W women's XVs competition, the Aon Uni 7s competition and expanding the National Rugby Championship to include a Fijian team.

Clyne says despite about $6 million in one-off costs, more than $3 million was ploughed back into the game while predicting Rugby Australia should be able to deliver a profit this year.

He concluded “obviously 2017 was a very difficult year and one we don't in any way hope to replicate.

"But I think on-field performance is a huge driver of both revenue and sentiment around the game."

Today also saw Gordon Club President Hayden Rorke and ARF Chairman John Wilson elected to the Rugby Australia board.

Images: Australia's Womens rugby 7s compete (top) and Cameron Clyne with recently apppointed Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle (below).

1st March 2018 - WESTERN FORCE APPOINTS EXPERIENCED SPORTS EXECUTIVE BRAD PAATSCH

12th February 2018 - COMMUNITY-BUILDING AT THE HEART OF NEW GRASSROOTS RUGBYROOS INITIATIVE 

16th January 2018 - HISTORY MAKING RAELENE CASTLE LOOKS FOR STABILITY IN NEW RUGBY AUSTRALIA ROLE 

12th December 2017 - RUGBY AUSTRALIA REVEALS SIGNIFICANT RISE IN SCHOOL PARTICIPATION PROGRAM

8th December 2017 - WESTERN FORCE RUGBY UNION BRAND TO RETURN IN 2018 

15th November 2017 - RUGBY AUSTRALIA MADE DECISION TO AXE WESTERN FORCE MONTHS BEFORE FINANCES EXAMINED

28th October 2017 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY UNION REBRANDS AS RUGBY AUSTRALIA 

27th October 2017 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY AND SPORTS SCIENCE BASE OPENS IN SYDNEY’S MOORE PARK

11th August 2017 - WESTERN FORCE TO BE CULLED FROM SUPER RUGBY AS BILL PULVER ANNOUNCES ARU DEPARTURE

11th April 2017 - ARU REPORTS SURPLUS AND PARTICIPATION GROWTH IN 2016

28th March 2017 - ARU REJECTS ROY MORGAN FINDINGS ON RUGBY PARTICIPATION

23rd March 2017 - MASSIVE DECLINE IN AUSTRALIANS’ PARTICIPATION IN RUGBY, SQUASH AND TENPIN BOWLING 


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