‘Clear path forward’ as Rugby Australia announces $9.2 million deficit at AGM

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh says the future looks positive for the sport in this country.

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh says the future looks positive for the sport in this country. Photo: Getty

Rugby Australia has announced a $9.2 million deficit for the 2023 financial year.

The loss was partly due to $11.5 million being invested during a World Cup year, including an unapproved $2.6 million overspend on Eddie Jones’ disastrous campaign in France.

The results were revealed following RA’s annual general meeting in Sydney on Monday.

The 2023 year also included a $4.9 million reduction in revenue, largely due to lesser match-day revenue as a result of only being able to host two home Wallabies Tests in the World Cup year, compared with six in 2022.

RA said additional high-performance investment in the Wallabies, Wallaroos and Australia A programs, increased spending in Super W and higher player payments reflecting 2023 being the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement with players, contributed to the deficit.

Elsewhere, RA reported a 1.7 per cent increase in participation growth across clubs and 2.3 per cent in schools, with significant increases in young people picking up the game – a 13 per cent bump in the Get into Rugby program.

A strong 16 per cent increase in female participation was reported as professional opportunities in the women’s game continue to grow.

In the third year of RA’s broadcast partnership with Stan Sport and Nine Entertainment Company, free-to-air viewership for Saturday night Super Rugby games was up 15 per cent on 2022’s average, while club rugby viewing figures also moved positively.

The Melbourne Bledisloe Cup Test didn’t match the Thursday night capture in 2022, although the return Bledisloe in Dunedin was up 15 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

The Wallaroos were the growth standout of RA’s digital channels, with an increase in video views of more than 500 per cent, while the Sevens teams also proved popular.

RA boss Phil Waugh said while he expected 2024 to also be challenging the future looked positive, anchored by exceptional tickets sales for next year’s British and Irish Lions tour.

“From a revenue perspective 2024 will be another challenging year given we have had to take on the unplanned cost of the Melbourne Rebels, as well as additional investments and distributions,” Waugh said in a statement.

“We have set a clear path forward – to unite the game from the grassroots to the elite level, to maximise efficiencies in high performance, to invest in growth areas of the game, and to set the game up to maximise the commercial opportunities over the next six years to ensure a thriving future for Australian rugby.”

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