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Rugby news pinpoints some financial winners and losers

By Frank Quinn
AFTER the recent heady days of the Six Nations and European competitions we take a look at the business side of professional rugby.
SCOTTISH Rugby has invested in the future of US rugby (an interesting development), by becoming a minority shareholder in MLR franchise Old Glory DC, based in Washington. It has been reported that the SRU will pay OG DC between $500k and $700k (£380k to £530k) in instalments over a number of seasons for a 20% stake. The club is scheduled to enter an expanded 12-team MLR competition from February 2020, the league’s third season in existence.
Scottish will also provide a combination of financial and rugby support to the new team and see its COO, Dominic McKay sit on the franchise board.
NEWCASTLE Falcons rugby club has posted widening losses of £3.9m for last season at the same time as the club fights to remain in the Premiership, reports the Newcastle Chronicle .
Newcastle Rugby Limited, which includes the finances of both the Falcons rugby union team and the Newcastle Thunder rugby league team, reported an operating loss of £3.9m for the year ending June 30, 2018. That is an increase on the loss of £2.8m for the previous season.
The loss comes despite Newcastle Falcons reporting increased attendance and revenues at its Kingston Park ground. Turnover during the period grew from £9.7m to £10.9m.
Newcastle Falcons in Rugby Union are struggling at the bottom of the twelve team Gallagher Premiership, three points adrift, winning just six of the seventeen games to date. Dean Richards, one of the great English number eights in rugby, is the Head Coach.
THE Rugby Football Union’s financial crisis deepened last week with surprise news. A recent article in an English newspaper claimed that the governing body faces a multi-million pound bill to replace the roofs of three of the four stands at Twickenham Stadium.
It is understood a recent structural inspection of the stadium revealed the roofs over the north, west and east stands, the latter which has just undergone an £81 million redevelopment for hospitality facilities, will have to be replaced. In addition to the cost of the replacement roofs is the cost of the disruption to the playing schedule at a ground which can hold over 83,000 fans.
The news is a further blow to the RFU’s attempts to reduce its cost base as the governing body must make savings of up to £10 million in the next financial year because of its troubled financial position, with losses of more than £11 million forecast so far for next year. .
EPCR paint a brighter picture with attendances for the Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup up by more than seven per cent on the same stage last season according to the organisers.
Just under 1.35 million spectators have passed through the turnstiles in the two tournaments this season so far, with the Challenge Cup showing a particular improvement at nearly 18 per cent.
Quarter-final gates in the Challenge Cup soared by a hefty 41% on last year’s figure with games hosted at La Rochelle, Clermont Auvergne, Worcester and Sale. The total for the 2018-19 campaign is on target for a record.
The Challenge Cup has got legs at last with quality Clubs and quality football. Connacht Rugby bowed out of the 2019 competition at the quarter final stage by losing away at Sale.
ZEBRA’S season ticket sales have been caught up in the closure of one of Britain’s oldest banks, Raphaels, which has promptly ceased providing funds to Zebra Finance, the firm allowing football, golf and rugby fans to purchase season tickets and memberships on instalment plans.
This was a very worthwhile exercise for the clubs to sell season tickets by instalment and it is not too late for the clubs to seek out a new finance company or try to sell direct. Better now than in mid-season when the instalments were to be paid.
Wasps, Bath and London Irish have all advertised Zebra’s services recently with Wasps announcing that fans who have yet to renew their season tickets for next season will be unable to do so using the Zebra option.

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