After a flat year in terms of financial advance in 2016/17, a natural hangover from the Rugby World Cup benefit of 2015/16, Irish Rugby surged back into growth and profit in the 12 months to April 2018.
Success on the field with a third ever Grand Slam at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day was the main driver, with income from International Rugby up 11.3 per cent to a figure of €42.2 million in the year.
This was strongly backed up by a 19.4 per cent rise in the income from provincial competition to a figure of €12.3 Million. This will not yet include revenue from Leinster’s win in the European Champions Cup and is largely down to increased revenue from the Guinness PRO14 adding teams from South Africa.
The subsequent new media rights deal from the same source will also not filter through until next year’s accounts and shows the sport to be in good health.
Commercial income also rose by 6.7 per cent in the year to a figure of €11.1 Million.
Renewals in the sponsorship area from Aviva, Aon, Aer Lingus, Volkswagen, DHL and Lucozade Sport, as well as new partnerships on the Sevens side with Elverys Intersport and Blackrock Expert Services, were all acknowledged by Philip Browne in his CEO Report accompanying the accounts.
The significant rise in incomes have resulted in a net surplus for the year of €1.2 Million, well ahead of the €4 Million deficit that had been budgeted given the additional costs of hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup last August and the bid to stage the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2023.
The costs for the former, hailed as a major success, were held within budget and while the performance of the Irish team did not live up to the hopes beforehand the tournament itself did at every other level with massive viewing audiences and sold out venues setting a new benchmark for the tournament.
Rugby World Cup
The failure to secure the staging of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 is covered by Browne in detail with “significant flaws in the report which underpinned the recommendation of World Rugby to award the tournament to South Africa, evidenced by the fact that it only received 13 of 39 votes in the opening round.”
“To ensure that any lessons can be learned from the experience, a review of the Irish bid process is being undertaken on behalf of the Irish Government and the IRFU is participating fully in this review,” he added before going on to say that “Whilst the outcome was a great disappointment there is no doubt that the level of cooperation between the IRFU, GAA, governments North and South and the various State organisations is now a model for any bid for international sports events in Ireland.”
“We should never rule out bidding for a Rugby World Cup in Ireland at some point in time in the future and the experience gained will stand us in good stead.”
Success at a higher level than previously attained at next year’s Rugby World Cup Finals in Japan will doubtless give rise to renewed confidence in a new bid.
Expenditure at national team and provincial level increased to over €42 million inclusive of bonuses payable to players for international and provincial success.
The money spent on elite player development increased to 10.8 million due to increased investment in the Academies and High Performance areas together with the net costs of hosting Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017.
A number of other points of interest in regards to the future of the sport were highlighted in the report.
The new strategic review covering 2018-23 is expected to be published towards the end of this summer, as well as an analysis of the targets set during the previous one running to this year.
Forecast changes to the makeup of Club Rugby were not referenced in the commentary, though the Women’s AIL was flagged as being under review with a number of changes required “to ensure that it remains the showcase of Women’s Rugby in Ireland.”
“The 2017/18 season was a record-breaking one in terms of team and financial performance, and it is thanks to Joe Schmidt and his management team, the provincial management teams and all the players, as well as the loyal and ever increasing number of supporters who attend games, purchase merchandise and drive our teams on to winning performances.
“The financing of the game has become increasingly important in the context of competing with international clubs who have deep pockets. Keeping our best players in our player management system has helped to deliver success and I congratulate (IRFU Performance Director) David Nucifora and all our provinces for making the Irish system so attractive to players.”
“Success is never guaranteed, and for that reason, we must always be careful how we distribute funding across all aspects of the game. Given the political and economic uncertainty in the world at the moment, and as a number of the provinces are expecting that finances will be very tight next year, we must continue to ensure we don’t live beyond our means.”
Image Credit: Morgan Treacy, Inpho.ie