The Australian Rugby Union, the sport's domestic governing body, has posted a loss of A$8.3 million ($8.5 million) for 2012, but is confident of returning to the black this year on the back of the high-profile British and Irish Lions tour of the country.
The ARU's financial performance for last year actually represents an improvement of A$2.3 million on 2011. Revenues of A$96.6 million, up A$21 million on the prior year, were offset by a $17.2-million increase in gross expenditure to A$100.3 million.
The ARU said it had been negatively impacted by currency exchanges, as the broadcast deal for Sanzar, the umbrella body of the rugby unions of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, was done in US dollars, not Australian dollars.
Michael Hawker, chairman of the ARU, explained: "While revenues were higher than the previous year, so was expenditure, which was primarily due to our continued investment in the game. Our bottom line was also negatively impacted by A$7.5m due to the higher Australian dollar.
"ARU’s revenue growth was driven by a number of factors, including an increase in sponsorship and an increase in match day returns due to the increased domestic Test programme compared to 2011. These increases, combined with the expectation that this year’s British & Irish Lions Tour will deliver substantial financial gains to Australian Rugby, provides the organisation an opportunity to better its financial position in 2013."
Bill Pulver, chief executive of the ARU, said the Lions tour will help to stabilise the organisation's finances, noting: "We've had a couple of difficult years in terms of deficits which has put some pressure on the ARU's cash balance. The market is not that easy in a sponsorship sense and we're focused on maximising the value of that [Lions] surplus this year."
The 2013 British and Irish Lions tour opens with a match between the Lions and the Barbarians invitational side in Hong Kong on June 1, and the touring team will meet Australia in three tests, in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, between June 22 and July 6.
The ARU's 2012 financials were released at the organisation's annual general meeting in Sydney, where David Crombie was elected unopposed as the new president, replacing Ron Graham, who stood down after more than a decade in the role.
Crombie, previously ARU vice-president, was elected alongside new vice-presidents John Coolican and Tony Shaw, presidents of the New South Wales Rugby Union and Queensland Rugby Union respectively.