Cost of Super Rugby’s back to the future move revealed

Despite falling attendances, the business models of professional sporting teams are still heavily based on hosting matches, which bring in ticketing, membership and sponsorship revenue, as well as deals with stadiums. The Waratahs, for example, receive $2 million a year from the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust under an agreement they play all their home games, bar a potential final, at Allianz Stadium.


The revelation was contained in a briefing document RA sent to its Super Rugby teams and other key stakeholders as supporting evidence to their decision to back the move back to 14 teams, without the Sunwolves in tow. Rugby Australia would not comment on the figure when contacted by the Herald.

Earlier in the day, Clyne said he was confident the new format, agreed and announced last month by SANZAAR, was needed to kickstart a revival in fan interest.

“Sometimes less can be more and we’re openly acknowledging that the expansion path didn’t work for Super Rugby, but part of that is not repeating the mistake and saying how do we get back to a format that’s more engaging,” he said.

“The only way really to drive increased revenue is having fan engagement, which leads to sponsor engagement and broadcaster interest. That’s about teams being competitive … If you look at this year’s format we are seeing an improvement in the way fans are reacting to Australian teams being more competitive and that’s leading to … some new sponsorship arrangements coming through.

“We’re pretty confident that the 14 team round robin … will probably lead to greater commercial opportunities.”

Monday’s annual general meeting went ahead without drama, NSW Rugby scrapping their Sunday night phone hook up and cancelling a push to drum up opposition to the format change.

Clyne said RA was well aware of the states’ misgivings on the new format and Sunwolves axing.

“The feedback is quite clear that there are potentially greater opportunities and integrity around a 14-team round robin,” he said.

“What they’re seeing at the moment, and I think quite legitimately, is a potential hole as a result of the Sunwolves not being in it, and as yet not a promised uplift in revenue because we haven’t actually closed out some of the commercial opportunities from the 14 team competition.

“Having said that, what they do know is that their problem is our problem. That’s why there’s a sense of shared responsibility.

“There is no scenario where we can be strong if one of our franchises is weak. They recognise that and they’re very supportive of an ongoing process of how do we now close out those commercial opportunities to plug that hole and hopefully add to it.”

Changes to the Rugby Championship format and tweaks around Super Rugby, including holding a final at a neutral venue, were canvassed in the document as a way to fill the gap.

Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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