Rugby Australia announces 2023 results at AGM

Rugby Australia announces 2023 results at AGM

The 2023 year saw a slight reduction in revenue (down $4.9m) largely due to lesser match day revenue as a result of only being able to host two home Wallabies Tests in a World Cup year, compared with six in 2022.

Being a World Cup year, there were also significantly higher costs with operating expenditure up by $11.5m. The increase was driven by additional high-performance investment, especially in the Wallabies, Wallaroos and Australia A programs, increased investment in Super W and an increase in player payments reflecting 2023 being the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement with players.

Ultimately, RA reported a deficit of $9.2m – less than the deficit reported in each of the last two men’s Rugby World Cup years; $9.5m in 2019, and $9.8m in 2015.

Elsewhere, RA reported participation growth across Clubs (up 1.7%) and Schools (2.3%), with significant increases in young people picking up the game (a 13% bump in the Get into Rugby program) as well as another strong increase in female participation (16%) for the second consecutive year – showing the opportunity in the women’s game.

In the third year of RA’s broadcast partnership with Stan Sport and Nine Entertainment Company, viewership on Free-To-Air (FTA) saw positive increases*. The average audience for the weekly Saturday night Super Rugby game on Free-To-Air was up 15% on 2022’s average.

The Wallabies’ first Test against Argentina saw an average on par with recent domestic matches against Argentina in 2021. The Bledisloe Cup Test at the MCG was down on 2022’s thrilling Thursday night clash, while the return Bledisloe in Dunedin was up 15% on the previous year’s corresponding fixture.

Despite the challenging time zone, Nine saw strong broadcast numbers throughout the Rugby World Cup, with the Final reaching an average audience of almost 450,000. Meanwhile, the Wallabies’ clash against Wales was the most watched Australian game at the RWC, with an average audience of 363,100.

Encouragingly, Club Rugby saw strong increases, with Hospital Cup viewership up 18%, and Shute Shield games experiencing an impressive 34% increase year-on-year.

RA’s digital channels witnessed sustained growth in fan engagement throughout 2023, with the Wallaroos’ digital following showing one of the larger increases across our platforms, increasing by 32% and helping the overall “Teams in Gold” following to increase by 11%, surpassing three million followers for the first time.  

The Wallaroos also experienced an increase in video views of more than 500%, and the Sevens teams reached over 17 million views throughout the year. 

RA pursued a capital raise injection in 2023. Having evaluated all potential options, including a Private Equity transaction, the business ultimately decided that establishing a new, flexible $80 million credit facility with Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) over a five-year term was the preferred option.

This capital injection is designed to be a short-term bridge to RA’s major revenue events on the horizon in the 2025 British & Irish Lions Tour and home Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, and allows RA to continue to invest in strategically important areas such as the Women’s Game, community and pathways in 2024.

RA CEO Phil Waugh said the governing body was focused on planning on the current cycle to the end of the current broadcast deal, and on the next cycle beginning in 2026.

“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 – especially in community and women's Rugby – and to set the game up to maximise the commercial opportunities over the next six years to ensure a thriving future for Australian Rugby.

“From a revenue perspective 2024 will be another challenging year given we have had to take on the unplanned cost of the Melbourne Rebels’ operations for 2024, as well as additional investments and distributions to Member Unions, Super Rugby clubs, the community game, pathways and Women’s Rugby.

“We could have reduced costs further for 2024, however this could have had a detrimental long-term effect for the game – it is essential that we set the game up as best we can for the major revenue events on the horizon in 2025, 2027 and 2029.

“Sales to date for the Lions tour have been exceptional, both in our market and in the UK – this once in 12 years event creates the opportunity to repay debt and get over the legacy of COVID-19 that the game is still facing.

“RA is working with the Super Rugby clubs, Member Unions and RUPA to set up a sustainable financial model for the future, aligned to a new Broadcast deal in 2026."

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