By Simon Ward
The International Rugby Board has unveiled a record investment programme for 2013, with £47 million ($73.4 million) to be committed to the 15-a-side game and the sevens version, despite an anticipated financial loss last year.
The governing body forecasts that some £184 million will be spent on development over the 2013-16 cycle, a 23-per-cent increase on the £150 million distributed in the previous four years.
This will include £44 million on the Strategic Investment Programme aimed at “increasing competitiveness of the elite international game.”
The IRB was unconcerned about the net operating loss of £35.5 million for 2012, saying this was planned as, under International Financial Reporting Standards, the IRB defers revenues and direct expenditures for the Rugby World Cup, the next edition of which is in 2015, until the year of the tournament.
Without IRFS, the net loss for last year would have been £24 million and the IRB said that the results were in line with expectations on the back of “a prudent cost reduction and reallocation programme across all aspects of the IRB Group over the past four years.”
The £47 million earmarked for the development of men’s and women’s rugby this year is going to strategic (high performance) initiatives, development grants to member unions and regional associations, tournaments, training and education programmes, player welfare, anti-doping, anti-corruption and administration.
The IRB claimed that high-performance funding, which is directed at specific projects in and tournaments for countries of Rugby World Cup standard, contributed to an 18-per-cent increase in participation in rugby between 2007 and 2011.
Commercial revenues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, for which the main host in England, are said to be “on track” with a net surplus expected, after the organisers of the 2011 tournament in New Zealand posted a loss, an anticipated development given the small size of the market and the limited capacity of venues.
The IRB is also optimistic about the development of sevens, with Russia set to host this year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, banking giant HSBC continuing its sponsorship of the Sevens World Series and a Women’s World Series having been introduced.
Funding for the sport is increasing as sevens prepares to make its Olympic debut at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro and the IRB confirmed this week that the Rugby World Cup Sevens, which was to be discontinued after this year, will remain on the calendar, with the next edition in 2018.
The governing body said it is assisting the six regional associations in developing their respective sevens series and championships between now and 2016.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Rugby continues to grow across every continent despite the challenging global economic climate and the IRB is committed to ensuring that the sport, through its two disciplines of Fifteens and Sevens, has the foundations from which to further prosper and reach out to major new markets, while keeping our base strong.
“We are committed to ongoing investment in our Unions, at all levels, and continue to collaborate with them to ensure that we service and support their strategic needs. We are delighted to be rolling out an unprecedented investment in competitions for Tier Two and Three Unions to enable them to benchmark performance, win rankings points and have the best possible preparation for RWC 2015 qualifying and participation and further ahead towards Japan 2019.
“These record levels of investment are made possible because of the continued growth of Rugby World Cup as one of the world’s most successful, best-loved and largest major sporting event, providing the IRB with the long-term financial platform to sustainably develop and grow the game around the world.”
Lapaaset added: “Following on from the resounding success of Rugby World Cup 2011 in the comparatively smaller market of New Zealand, the commercial programme for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England is currently on course to meet expectations on net surplus which is very encouraging for the development of Rugby worldwide.”