The Rugby Football Union has laid bare the full financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, announcing a revenue shortfall of £120m compared to previous forecasts. The union also revealed an underlying loss to reserves of £21.3m – around £30m worse than pre-pandemic forecasts – in its latest accounts published on Wednesday.
The report states that revenue was £97m, down from £167m the previous year, as the pandemic took hold. The union generates 85% of its revenue from England men’s internationals at Twickenham but this year’s Six Nations championship was played in empty stadiums. Despite the dismal fifth-place finish, the report combines the results of Eddie Jones’s side with the women’s team to claim the guiding principle of a “winning England” was complete.
The report goes on to say that financial stability has been secured via cost-cutting measures including 119 redundancies, a debenture donation programme and emergency financial schemes made available by the government. Nonetheless, total remuneration for the RFU’s full senior management team was £2.63m with the chief executive Bill Sweeney earning £540,000, which included the consolidation of a pension payment.
“This 150th year of the RFU has been an immensely challenging one for the union and our sport,” said Sweeney. “We have worked harder than ever before to support the professional and community game though the pandemic, with a clearly focused strategic plan to ensure we deliver real benefit and support to the game. As we emerge out of Covid, the RFU will continue to take a leadership role in reshaping and improving the game for the benefit of all involved.”
Significantly, professional rugby investment in the year was £40.3m compared to £66.4m in the prior year with the Premiership clubs bearing the brunt. A clause in the professional game agreement between the RFU and the Premiership became active in 2020 and dictated that the clubs’ funding would be determined by the union’s revenues. Accordingly, funding for the men’s and women’s Premierships, as well as the Championship, was £12.2m compared to £33m the previous year.
“We are in a stable position but we have also made a very sizeable underlying loss over the course of the last year,” writes the RFU’s chief financial officer Sue Day. “It will take a number of years to recover from that loss and for the next few years our cost base will need to remain at current levels, or thereabouts, while we rebuild our lost reserves, right size our debt and regain certainty over future revenues as the impact of the pandemic subsides.
“Put simply, we have less money to invest in our great game than in recent years and that means that we must spend the money that we do have wisely, making sure that we invest each pound so that it has the greatest impact on delivering the purpose of our strategy: to enrich lives, to introduce more people to rugby union and to develop the sport for future generations.”