The British & Irish Lions tour saved South African rugby
SA Rugby would have had to close had it not been for the British & Irish Lions tour last year.
Although no crowds were in attendance for the tour, the syndicate was able to break even in 2021 after 12 months of pandemic chaos.
Today SA Rugby announced a modest profit of R9million (£450,000) for 2021.
With the exception of the Springbok Women’s Sevens and SA Schools teams, all South African national teams resumed competition in the 2021 season after a one-year hiatus. In 2020, the Springboks, Springbok Women and Age Group teams were all inactive, with the Springbok Sevens team making just four appearances before the outbreak hit.
The Lions tour has provided the syndicate with revenue crucial to television rights, while also giving them a platform to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities. Broadcast revenue increased from R417m in 2020 to R655m in 2020, while sponsorship revenue increased to R329m when net income from the Castle Lager Lions series was added to the contracts of existing sponsorships for a total of R282 million in 2021.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said without the visit from the Lions, which at one point looked set to be scrapped, the union would not have been able to keep its doors open.
“The Springboks’ return to play and the delivery of the Castle Lager Lions series has been key to the sport’s survival in 2021,” Roux said.
“If we hadn’t been able to organize these events, we would have closed the doors of rugby by the end of the year.
“Having said that, the fact that the pandemic has prevented fan attendance at the Springbok Tests and provincial matches means the sport remains in a precarious position.
“Last year (2021) was supposed to be the year we built up the reserves thanks to the windfall of a British and Irish Lions tour; COVID-19 has denied us this opportunity. The tour has allowed us to break even, but if we are hit by an event of a similar magnitude, we have no reserves to deal with it.
Moreover, the return to rugby in 2021 could not have come a day later.
Roux explicitly thanked SA Rugby’s broadcast and commercial partners for their continued support.
“It was gratifying to see revenue back to 2019 levels, but we should have been well ahead of those numbers in 2021 – both from the Lions series and increased values in renewals and without the reductions that have been amortized in existing agreements,” he said.
“Our provinces were only allowed to host 2,000 spectators from October and, like all businesses, we had the added cost of enforcing COVID-19 protocols. Financial sustainability remains a pressing concern for the sport.
Chairman Mark Alexander said: “It has been an extraordinary year mainly due to Covid, and although the threat to rugby has not diminished, we remain hopeful that the national vaccination program will empower society and our sport. to gradually return to normal.
“While we cannot yet take anything for granted, we will continue to work for the return of vibrant grassroots football activity on and off the pitches of our schools and clubs, and for the return of spectators to the professional game. , which will ensure the financial support of rugby.”
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