Rugby Australia (Rugby AU) has today announced its 2020 results as well as Board Director appointments at its Annual General Meeting.
Rugby AU recorded a net deficit of $27.1m, due to significant disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which was underpinned by a $45.7m reduction in revenue.
Rugby AU exceeded its initial goal of $15m in cost efficiencies, with a final reduction of $31.2m.
The organisation acted swiftly to decrease costs in Rugby AU staff which were reduced by $9.9m (down 46%), a $7.7m reduction in player costs (down 45%), an $8.1m reduction in Member Union funding (down 28%) while all other costs were reduced by $5.5m.
Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan said: “Australian Rugby has been through some challenging years recently, but nothing could have prepared us for 2020. When the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear in late March, we were forced to shut down both professional and community Rugby across the country. The organisation was shaken to its core.
“It has been an extraordinary job just to survive. We will carry a very weak balance sheet into this year, in what will be a very testing time. This only highlights the importance of external investment as we look to alternate sources of funding to reinvest back into the game.
“Having said that, I’m encouraged by a number of positive actions recently. It is a testament to the strength, resilience and passion of the Rugby community that we’ve made it to this point. As you can see, we’ve made huge sacrifices, but the difficult decisions we were forced to make in 2020 will set Australian Rugby up for a sustainable and successful future,” McLennan said.
Despite experiencing substantial financial pressure in 2020, some significant achievements last year include:
- New three-year (plus two-year option) broadcast agreement with Nine and Stan which includes Super Rugby live on free-to-air television for the first time in the competition’s history
- Following international border closures, Rugby AU introduced Super Rugby AU and welcomed back the Western Force to a new, five-team Australian-only competition. The inaugural Super Rugby AU Final was won by the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra
- The eToro Tri-Nations was hosted in Australia, across Brisbane and New South Wales over six consecutive weeks
- Just an 11% drop in participants nationally despite disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Junior 7s up 50% while Women’s and Girls up 10% and Junior XVs up 6%
- Amy Perrett became the first female to referee a Super Rugby game
- NSW Waratahs won the Buildcorp Super W while the Chikarovski Cup was played in late 2020
- Retained $15.4m of sponsorship revenue despite a significant reduction in commercial partner content- Formed a formidable Rugby World Cup Bid Advisory Board, chaired by Sir Rod Eddington AO FTSE, as Australia aim to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup
Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan continued: “I was ecstatic, along with the rest of the Rugby family, to welcome the Western Force back into the fold. They, and the Melbourne Rebels, braved a season on the road away from family and friends when the future of the game was at stake. We owe the Force and the Rebels a debt of gratitude. A national footprint has returned, and Australian Rugby is committed to it for the long term.
“We also saw the formation of a formidable Rugby World Cup Bid Advisory Board, chaired by the indefatigable Sir Rod Eddington AO FTSE. The Bid has since secured $8.8m in funding from the Australian Government and is well advanced in its planning ahead of the World Rugby Council vote in May 2022.
“In late 2020, we also began plans to return our national jersey colour to the true Wallaby Gold. What a thrilling process it turned out to be, after an overwhelming response from fans and Australian Rugby royalty alike. That process is now complete with the team this year to return to wearing the same shade of Gold as the 1991 World Cup winning Wallabies against France. I know the community is as excited as I am to see our Wallabies run out for their first Test of 2021.
“The impact of the new broadcast agreement with Nine and Stan has exceeded our expectations, with record ratings and the flow-on effect to crowds and the Community game.
“I’m very excited about what the future has in store for our game in this country, as is everyone that I speak to on the street. The reset button was pressed and we’re well on our way to reaping those rewards.
“I know the Australian Rugby community shares my excitement for the year ahead, including the completion of the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman Super Rugby competitions, a Wallabies Test season and seeing our marvellous Australian Sevens teams pull on the green and gold in Tokyo later this year.
“The work is not yet done though. We have some incredibly important decisions to make in the near future which will ensure Australian Rugby returns to its lofty heights,” McLennan said.
Rugby Australia Board elections
The AGM included the election of Chairman Hamish McLennan along with two new Board Directors to join the Board immediately and a third new director elected to join the Board later in the year. Dr. Jane Wilson was appointed to the Board. Dr. Wilson was previously the Deputy Chancellor of the University of Queensland, and a Non-Executive Director of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, Opal Aged Care Limited, BUPA Australia Limited, Energex Limited and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Dr Wilson has a lifelong passion for Rugby and has been extensively involved in Rugby in Queensland both personally and through her family.
Ms. Karen Penrose was also appointed to the Board. Ms. Penrose’s executive career was in leadership and CFO roles, including 20 years in banking with Commonwealth Bank and HSBC and eight years as a listed-company CFO for Wilson HTM Investment Group Ltd. Ms. Penrose has been connected to Rugby throughout her life and has contemporary grass-roots experience, as Chair of Old Barker Rugby Club Inc where she has led a heightened focus on governance at OBRC, investment in skills training and equipment.
Ms. Penrose has a particular passion in promoting the Women’s game and Indigenous representation within Rugby including working with Barker College’s efforts to support the education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through their Indigenous campuses of Darkinjung Barker, Ngarralingayil Barker and Dhupuma Barker.
Mr. Matthew Hanning was appointed to the Board and will commence his directorship in the coming months. Mr. Hanning’s appointment follows the retirement of Mr. Hayden Rorke after three years of service. Mr. Hanning is a founding partner of Barrenjoey, a locally-owned Australian Securities firm. He is presently the Chairman of SAI Global Pty Ltd, Non-Executive Director at Vocus Group and a Senior Adviser to Baring Private Equity Asia.
Mr. Hanning was previously a partner at Clayton Utz, a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley with senior management roles in both Australia and Hong Kong and a Group Managing Director at UBS with management responsibility for Asia Pacific investment banking. At UBS, he was a member of the Investment Bank Executive Committee which managed the activities of the Investment Bank globally. Mr. Hanning has a deep connection with Rugby having played for school and club, going on to join Eastwood and play club Rugby in England.Mr. Hanning has remained connected through coaching and fundraising in Hong Kong and Australia and currently has children playing GPS Rugby.
In addition, Mr. David Codey was elected as President, replacing outgoing President Mr. Tim Gavin.