RA’s revenue for 2021 increased by $32.6m or 49% primarily due to a $14m increase in broadcast revenue, a $8m increase in match revenue and a $7m increase in sponsorship revenue. The following information is direct sourced from the 2022 Annual Report.
2021 SAW THE RETURN OF THE full international rugby calendar for the Wallabies who played eight Test matches on home soil.
The lifting of COVID restrictions in many states saw crowds return to the stands, in particular across Queensland where the Wallabies played six of their eight matches. The three-match series against France kicked off the Wallabies 2021 campaign with 72,000 fans enjoying the series. The original Test schedule was changed due to the Delta outbreak in NSW meaning the first Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground was moved to Suncorp Stadium Queensland seven days before the Test.
Despite this short sales timeframe 17,821 fans attended the rescheduled first match at Suncorp Stadium which was played on a Wednesday evening. This was followed by 20,114 at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The final Test of the series returned to Suncorp Stadium in Queensland and the easing of COVID restrictions saw 34,164 fans able to attend the series finale.
52,724 fans attended the Wallabies third game of the Bledisloe Cup at Optus Stadium in Perth. Crowd numbers were severely impacted by the change of date which led to the match being played on Fathers’ Day and two weeks before the AFL Grand Final.
Additionally, the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic make it difficult for non-WA based Wallabies fans to attend. Of the tickets sold to the original fixture over 3,000 were refunded as a result of the date change.
The 2021 eToro Rugby Championship was played as blockbuster double headers across Queensland on consecutive weekends from 12 September to 2 October. 15,191 fans attended game one (Australia v South Africa and Argentina v New Zealand) at CBUS Stadium, Gold Coast, followed by 28,215 fans at Suncorp Stadium for the same matches.
The third and fourth weekend’s games were Australia v Argentina and South Africa v New Zealand, with 23,184 fans descending on Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville for the stadium’s first ever international Rugby Test, and 20,441 at CBUS Stadium, Gold Coast respectively. The Delta wave of COVID that hit Queensland in October impacted the second CBUS Stadium Test as the sell-out crowd was reduced to 75% capacity the week of the Test.
In a tense qualifying final, the Brumbies experience and class saw them grind out a 21-9 victory in front of 9,000 passionate supporters. The Super Rugby AU Grand Final was a repeat of the 2020 meeting, with the venue this time around being an electric Suncorp Stadium jumping with over 41,000 fans
The 2021 season saw the introduction of our new broadcast partner in Nine Entertainment Co. and Stan Sport, with our game available on free-to-air for the first time in Super Rugby history. This unique blend of linear and streaming platform delivery within one media house has given the game exclusive access across multiple mediums and driven both awareness and promotion of the game. In this our first year of our new relationship, viewership across al professional areas of the game was significantly increased year on year. This was evidenced by an increase of our television audience by an average of 244% on a YoY comparison.
Our weekly averages in both Super Rugby and across our international windows were all materially up on historical averages.
In the first year of Rugby Australia’s broadcast partnership with Stan Sport and Channel Nine, viewership across all professional areas of the game was significantly increased year on year. Super Rugby AU’s weekly average cumulative audience was 207,302 across Stan Sport and 9 GEM, with weekly viewing peaking for the Super Rugby AU final.
Queensland success saw a 175% increase in Reds viewership on Nine and Stan across the season, and a 92% increase in attendance at Reds matches.
A total of 296,000 viewers tuned in to 9 GEM alone to watch the Queensland Reds versus the Brumbies in the inaugural final of the Super Rugby AU competition played on free-to-air.
Viewership remained strong into the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition with a weekly average cumulative audience of 177,432 across Stan Sport and 9 GEM. Of note, the aggregate total of the Stan Sport audience was lower in the earlier rounds given the new offering of the platform, and its launch for round one.
Continued promotion and growth over each round saw notable subscriptions increases each week, however Stan Sport does not publicly release standalone broadcast figures.
The two Bledisloe Cup matches played in New Zealand recorded higher audience numbers on 9 GEM in 2021 than in 2020 with 420,000 and 452,000 tuning in respectively for the games on free to air broadcast with an equal if not greater audience also tuning in On Stan Sport.
Over the rest of The Rugby Championship series played in Australia, the average cumulative audience per Test was 736,019 on Stan Sport and 9 GEM.
Rugby Australia’s owned channels once again performed well in 2021, continuing the growth trajectory seen in 2020. RUGBY.com.au remained central to RA’s content marketing strategy and as a result saw page views increase news increase by 65% to just under 17 million views.
Dwell time on the site remained constant however total video views grew by 600% YoY. Emerging digital channels performed well across all Rugby Australia brands with content being consumed across Instagram Reels and Tiktok at increasingly high levels throughout the year. Short format, agile and responsive format has been well received by audiences and as a result RA social channels have grown on average by 54.53% YoY.
The highest growth channel is RUGBY.com.au by 65.1% on Facebook. First party data growth was a key priority in 2021 and Rugby AU’s subscriber list “Team Rugby” has grown by 24% YoY. Adding value to ubscribers through exclusive news, content and first access to tickets has contributed to this but the “Back Our Bid” for Rugby World Cup 2027 campaign has been the main driver of new subscribers to the database.
RA’s revenue for 2021 increased by $32.6m or 49% primarily due to a $14m increase in broadcast revenue, a $8m increase in match revenue and a $7m increase in sponsorship revenue.
Whilst RA incurred increased match day and related costs in 2021 to ensure a COVID-safe environment, RA deemed it necessary to continue to invest in players, Super Rugby and community. In 2021, RA incurred incremental costs of $10m, an 11% increase, which
was primarily due to a $2m increase in player payments and team costs, a $2m increase in matchday costs, a $2m increase in Super Rugby and high-performance payments and a $2m increase in community initiatives.
For 2021, RA reduced its loss by $22.6m from $27.1m in 2020 to $4.5m. Notwithstanding the financial challenges in 2021, RA has reported a cash balance of $12.2m at year end.
During 2021, RA restructured its debt with a $19.5m loan note. The proceeds of this loan note were used to repay the $6.9m loan from HSBC. As of the date of the signed Statutory Accounts RA had withdrawn an additional $5m loan note, increasing RA’s total loan note to $24.5m with an undrawn facility of $15m.
The QRU has turned the corner financially, recording a profit of $4,110,251 ($1,575,519 without Government capital grants and stimulus), a 94.5% increase on the previous year (and an 871 per cent increase in the absence of all Government funding).
Notwithstanding the challenges of 2021, overall player participation grew substantially to reach preCOVID levels. The overall breakdown of player participation is now vastly different to what it was in 2019, however it has presented Rugby with a great opportunity to achieve ongoing growth.
In 2021 junior club XVs registrations were up 13% and senior club XVs registrations were up 14%, when compared to 2020. Senior club XVs registrations are still only at 71% of 2019 registrations, however junior club XVs registrations surpassed 2019 registrations by 20%. Female registrations continued their surge with an overall increase of 28% across club XVs, underpinned by development programs, new competitions and growing media interest.\
Participation in club Sevens competitions declined by 16% with uncertainty around COVID-19 related restrictions in NSW and Victoria, however many tournaments were able to take place in 2021 and total registrations in that category increased by 52% in males and 57% in females.
When regular competitions resume and restrictions on travel cease, registrations in clubs and tournaments are expected to grow substantially.
The Get Into Rugby program in the club environment is continuing to establish itself as a great introductory program for girls and boys between 5 and 8 years of age, increasing 64% on 2020 registrations.
Despite recording a 6% decline in 2021, Touch 7s in the club environment performed well considering COVID-19 related restrictions impacted delivery in NSW and Victoria.
Touch 7s provides an avenue for people of all ages to stay involved with Rugby and this was increasingly evident in 2021 with senior registrations growing by 49%. In the school environment, participation in Rugby’s Sporting Schools programs was again heavily
impacted by COVID-19 but still increased 20% on 2020. This was a very strong result and despite being well below 2019 levels, Rugby is well placed to continue growing in 2022. School competitions fared similarly with many being impacted again in
2021. The largest increase came in 7s competitions with overall growth of 51% that was comprised of 36% growth in females and 61% growth in males
- 2021 Rugby Australia Annual Report
- 2021 QRU Annual Report
- 2021 NSWRU Annual Report