CAPE TOWN - While the arrival of the British and Irish Lions will be a great psychological boost, SA Rugby have warned that the sport remains under “extreme financial pressure” as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
The governing body released their 2020 annual report on Tuesday and reported a “modest loss” of R7.9 million, which is a good outcome, considering that no fans were allowed at stadiums and the world-champion Springboks were not in action last year.
SA Rugby said last year that they were implementing cost-cutting measures across the sport to shave off R1.2 billion on expenses, which saw staff and players taking salary cuts of up to 40 percent, while certain tournaments such as the junior national weeks were not held.
There was a 45 percent decline in revenue, which saw the amount go down to R710 million compared to R1.29 billion the previous year, due to cuts in broadcast and sponsorship income, no Test rugby and the cancellation of the Cape Town Sevens.
The SA Rugby group were able to report a R1.5m profit as a result of income from a subsidiary, SA Rugby Travel.
But chief executive Jurie Roux said that the difficult financial times for rugby were not yet a thing of the past.
“We were able to collaborate with our broadcasters and sponsors on finding mitigation strategies and equitable reductions, while we were also very grateful to be able to access World Rugby loans to support our member unions, and ensure that we still have 14 unions in 2021,” Roux said.
“Unfortunately, the austerity measures will have to continue. The unforgiving truth at the elite end of the sport is that we are in the entertainment business, and our product is rugby matches and the 365-day-year story that surrounds them.
“Without matches and an audience, we have little or no income, and until we return to a situation where venues are allowed 100 percent capacity, we will remain under extreme financial pressure.”
SA Rugby have put in a request with Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa for 50 percent attendance at stadiums for the upcoming Lions tour, but he made it clear recently that the final decision will be made by government’s National Coronavirus Command Council.
But there is hope that the financial will improve this year, as there are a whopping 14 Bok Tests scheduled, starting with the two-match series against Georgia in July.
“There is much to look forward to in 2021 as we finally run out for the time – after what will be 20 months – as world champions when we meet Georgia in July,” Roux said.
“Domestically, all 14 teams will be in action, and our switch from Super Rugby to PRO Rugby will be complete – travel-restrictions permitting.
“We have weathered Covid’s first storm, and the return of our national teams and the arrival of the British and Irish Lions will be a great psychological boost.
“However, I cannot stress enough, we remain on a financial tightrope which will require careful management and financial restraint to survive.”