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How Rugby Australia clawed its way back from 'the cusp of catastrophe' to first profit in four years

26th April, 2023
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26th April, 2023
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Rugby Australia has announced a surplus of $8.2 million at its 2022 annual general meeting, returning the business to profit for the first time in four years.

The welcome boost comes on the heels of a difficult financial period for RA after the impact of COVID led to the governing body recording a $27.1 million deficit just two years ago.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan hailed the result as a major turnaround, after jobs were shed at RA and players forced to take significant pay cuts during the lean times.

In promising a bright future for the code in Australia, McLennan paid tribute to RA chief executive Andy Marinos for being instrumental in helping revive the once cash-strapped organisation.

“The last two years have been a wild ride for us – and with the removal of COVID restrictions, we were able to return to a full year of rugby and restore some normality in the business,” McLennan said.

Rugby Australia posted an $8.2 million surplus during 2022 after a well-backed international season. Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

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“To turn this thing around in such a short time is a great testament to Andy and the team at Rugby Australia, as well as the resilience of our game – and with the promise of a Lions Tour in two years, as well as home Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, rugby is very much on the rise again.”

As first reported by The Roar, Wallabies legend Joe Roff was announced as RA’s new president on Wednesday.

Capped 86 times, Roff achieved almost everything in the game, winning the Rugby World Cup, Bledisloe Cup, British and Irish Lions series, Super Rugby titles and retired as Super Rugby’s most prolific try-scorer.

Roff replaces another former Wallaby in David Codey, who comes to the end of his term and was warmly thanked by Rugby Australia for his diligent and passionate work over the past two years.

The 2022 financial result comes off the back of a 31 per cent ($30.6 million) increase in revenue, largely thanks to a return to a full season of match activity and events.

Match-day revenue grew by 85 per cent year-on-year, largely thanks to the highest match attendance at Wallabies Tests since the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour, with 265,380 fans attending six matches, including three sell-outs.

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Australian rugby’s dramatic turnaround in financial fortunes comes little more than a year after RA reportedly considered returning the code in Australia to the amateur ranks. 

“There can be no doubt about how deep a hole rugby was in as a result of the pandemic – we were genuinely on the cusp of catastrophe,” Marinos said.

Rugby Australia’s executives Hamish McLennan (L) and Andy Marinos (R) have seen the game come back from the brink. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

“It has been a real grind – we have had to be incredibly disciplined financially, yet still delivering results across the business in participation, marketing and promoting a full season of rugby, growth in commercial revenue.

“Getting that balance right has been difficult, however we are now rewarded with being in a strong position as we move forward to this year’s Rugby World Cup, the 2025 Lions tour, and our home Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029.”

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