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SA Rugby reports surplus and confirms re-election of Mark Alexander as president

SA Rugby has reported a surplus due to the Springboks’ return to the playing field in 2021.
SA Rugby has reported a surplus due to the Springboks’ return to the playing field in 2021.
Image: David Rogers/Getty Images

SA Rugby has reported a surplus of R8.9m and also announced that Mark Alexander has been re-elected as the organisation’s president.

SA Rugby said its annual financial statements were approved at the Saru annual general meeting in Cape Town on April 29 and the surplus was ensured by the Springboks’ return to the playing field in 2021.

One of the highlights from the AGM was the acceptance of constitutional changes to admit Limpopo as a member of Saru to become the 15th member union, albeit with “development union” status.

The organisation announced the return to action allowed revenue to increase by 80% on 2020’s severely impacted levels, rising from R710m to R1.283bn, recovering almost to pre-Covid levels (R1.296bn in 2019).

Broadcast income increased from R417m in 2020 to R655m while the net income from the Castle Lager Lions Series (R107m) when added to existing sponsorship contracts (R222m) saw sponsorship income rise to R329m (R282m in 2021).

The return to rugby activity had a consequent impact on expenses with rugby costs increasing by R107m to R280m, commercial costs by R52m to R292m and image rights and insurance costs by R18m to R73m.

The improving environment allowed distributions to member unions to increase from R187m to R244m.

Even with the small surplus, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux  said rugby business remained under severe financial pressure.

“The return to play of the Springboks and the delivery of the Castle Lager Lions Series were critical to the survival of the sport in 2021,” said Roux.

“Had we not been able to deliver those events we would have been closing rugby’s doors by year end. Having said that, the fact that the pandemic prevented the attendance of supporters at Springbok Tests and at provincial matches means the sport remains in a precarious position.

“Last year (2021) was supposed to be the year that we built up reserves from the windfall of a British & Irish Lions tour, but Covid-19 denied us that opportunity. The tour meant we were able to break even but if we are hit by an event of a similar magnitude, we have zero reserves to weather it.”

Roux thanked SA Rugby’s broadcast and commercial partners for their continued support throughout the crisis but noted Covid-19 continued to have a serious impact.

“It was gratifying to see income return to 2019 levels, but we should have been far ahead of those numbers in 2021, both from the Lions series and from increased values in renewals and without reductions that were amortised into existing agreements,” he said.

“Our provinces were only allowed to host 2,000 spectators from October and like all businesses, we have had the additional cost burden of applying Covid-19 protocols. Financial sustainability remains a pressing concern for the sport.”

Roux added that the prospects for 2022 remained positive though the game changer for the industry would be the relaxation of restrictions on venue attendance.

Alexander, who was re-elected unopposed as president, said: “This has been an extraordinary year due primarily to Covid-19, and though the threat to rugby has not diminished, we remain hopeful that the national vaccination programme will allow society and our sport to gradually return to normal.

“While we cannot yet take anything for granted, we will continue to work towards the return to vibrant grassroots activity on and off the pitches in our schools and clubs, and for the return of spectators in the professional game, which will secure the financial underpinning of rugby.”


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