NZ Rugby posts $9m loss, says work to be done to become sustainable

New Zealand Rugby has made a loss of almost $9 million for the financial year.

NZR’s total income in 2023 was $268m and expenditure $277m, with a net deficit of $8.9m.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said further work was needed to achieve a sustainable financial model, but was positive about the organisation’s future.

“There is reason to be optimistic about the direction we are heading in key areas” Robinson said.

“Player numbers rebounded in 2023, up seven percent to nearly 150,000 registered players, and we saw viewership for Super Rugby Pacific was up across digital streaming and free to air, a trend that’s continued in 2024 with nearly two million New Zealanders tuning in and a final at Eden Park that sold out in hours.

NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson interviewed by media

“This sort of positive change was mirrored in the commercial space in 2023 where the full New Zealand Rugby Commercial Board was formed, CEO Craig Fenton was appointed, and in NZRC’s first full year of operation the NZR+ streaming platform was established to engage with our global fanbase.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson and chair Dame Patsy Reddy

“We are seeing some amazing results starting to come through on NZR+ with 33 million unique people engaging with our content since [its] launch.

“At the same time, our commercial income and sponsor support remained at historical highs in 2023, balancing out some of the downside of match day income in a Rugby World Cup year. Our operating result of $8.9 million drops to a $5.5m adjusted operating loss when we take into account the related costs of the Silver Lake transaction.”

Robinson said the overall operating result was heavily impacted by a truncated Rugby Championship, the lack of the mid-year home series, Māori All Blacks or All Blacks XV matches, and just two domestic tests.

The result was a 39 percent decrease in matchday income from $28m to $17m.

Broadcast income also decreased by $16m due to the impact of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

However, NZR has grown its reserves, which have increased to $175m, up $79m from 2022.

Sponsorship income has also increased to $121m, up $8m.

“The All Blacks went within a whisker of winning the Rugby World Cup in France, and our Sevens teams won their respective World Series titles, and there is much to be optimistic about as we turn our focus to broadcast negotiations, a new players’ collective agreement, and some exciting future opportunities around international competitions,” Robinson said.

NZR Group chief financial officer Jo Perez said the 2023 financial results reflected the first full year of NZRC in operation and the investment enabled by the Project Future deal with Silver Lake in 2022.

“In 2022 we tagged $38m to use for future commercial initiatives, and in 2023 were able to use $11m of that money to set up the NZR+ streaming platform to tell our stories and reach fans across the world,” Perez said.

“A total of $120m was also tagged to go into NZR’s reserves, which increased from $96m to $175m in 2023, a key objective of Project Future.”

Expenditure was down $41m from $318m to $277m, largely due to 2022 expenditure including $37m of distributions to stakeholders from the Project Future deal, however, NZR continued to invest to grow the game in 2023 with $42m going toward community game development, including women’s and girls’ rugby.

“We are operating in a challenging, high inflation environment, but it is pleasing to have tightly managed our expenditure, without compromising our ongoing investment in the game. We are seeing momentum build with commercial initiatives and as we build our global audience through NZR+,” Perez said.

“Crucially, we have strengthened our balance sheet, which provides both resilience against future shocks, and also enables targeted strategic investment. We have more work to do balancing the books as we move toward a sustainable financial model, while investing in commercial opportunities here and offshore, sustained high performance, and communities.”

The 2023 financial result is better than last year’s, when NZR posted a loss of $47m, a reversal of the $5.5m surplus in 2021.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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