English Rugby’s Financial Challenges

If England is rueing the appointment of Andy Farrell as the new Ireland Head Coach, he may be more sanguine about choosing the certainty of Ireland over the possibility of the land of his birth.

News that the English RFU is to rein back spending in the England set-up will add to a sense of their falling off the pace being set by Ireland as we prepare for a World Cup year.

The latest Annual report from the RFU reveals that there will be a planned paring back of expenditure across all levels of the game from what was a total of £107.7 million in 2017/18 to a figure of around £95 million per annum in future years.

The last year’s accounts were bolstered by a one-off restructuring of how the hospitality is managed at Twickenham which delivered £31.6 million into the profit and loss account but without that, the Union would have recorded a loss of £30.9 million.

The year before a World Cup generally sees a dip in the financial position of each Rugby Union before a dividend from World Rugby sets things back on a more even keel.

Nevertheless, the IRFU was still able to report a €1.2 million surplus for the same period, with success on the pitch for the national team and Leinster, in particular, driving up revenue and replacing a forecast deficit of €4 million with a number well into the black.

England is having to cut back though. A little over €1 million is reported to have been overspent on the national team with a higher than expected turnover of coaches and higher costs in team camps being pointed to as the main reasons.

A redundancy programme which involved the shedding of 54 jobs across the RFU was also expensive in the short term and one of the casualties of the financial ‘prudence’ now being displayed is a pause on the rolling out of community pitches.

“2017/18 was a transition point for the Union as it moves from a period of high growth and investment in the game to a more challenging time.” said outgoing CEO Steve Brown in his review of the accounts.

And yet while the costs of the Professional Game Agreement are being described as the single biggest challenge, they are merely keeping the club game afloat as opposed to providing it with a feathered nest.

Three years on from hosting the Rugby World Cup English Rugby is still on a solid financial footing with a return to a surplus forecast for next year but nobody foresaw that the loss of revenue in the past year, some £12.5 million in total would be quite so steep.

It should be a salutary lesson that while good times in sport can generate substantial cash sums for reinvestment in the game, this is a competitive world and when the winning stops, there can be deeper troubles ahead.

Image Credit: England Rugby

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