Lions tour helps cash-strapped ARU to post profit
ESPN Staff
May 27, 2014
ARU CEO Bill Pulver larks around  during the 2013 Australian Super Rugby launch at Sketch, Central Pier, Melbourne, February 13, 2013
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has been cutting costs © Getty Images

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced a much-needed Aus$19.5 million (£10.7 million) surplus for 2013 as the financially-strapped body faces some tough times ahead.

After recording combined losses upwards of Aus$20 million over the previous two years, the executive has cut costs across the board to reduce the deficit. However, a major contributor to finishing the year in the black was the lucrative British & Irish Lions tour which generated an incremental surplus of Aus$35 million.

This year's three-Test visit from France won't generate anywhere near that kind of return, and in 2015 the ARU is bracing itself for an even tougher 12 months, with the World Cup to eat into the domestic international season.

But the Lions tour wasn't the sole reason for the financial turnaround, with the ARU also boasting increased participation, the influence of Ewen McKenzie as coach of the Wallabies and a new strategy to grow the game overall. Chairman Michael Hawker described the last 12 months as energising for a troubled code.

"The British & Irish Lions Tour generated a significant surplus for us in 2013 and will help steer Australian Rugby towards future success on and off the field," Hawker said. "[We] have three key areas of focus under the new strategy, expand participation; develop elite success; and unlock our financial potential."

Hawker said building a sustainable financial model, regardless of which teams visit Australia to play the Wallabies, was the challenge that still remains for the ARU board.

"Our efforts to reduce Australian Rugby's cost base and unlock new sources of revenue will continue in 2014 as we work to develop a business model that is less reliant on one-off windfalls," Hawker said.

The incremental profit generated by the British & Irish Lions Tour was offset by operating deficits of around $8m from other ordinary business; Aus$5.5m in financial assistance provided to the Melbourne Rebels during the year; and an additional Aus$2m investment in the Sevens program.

The AGM also included the election of three new directors to the board, including Paul McLean, a former Wallabies fly-half who was ARU President last decade. Nerolie Withnall and Cameron Clyne were also elected, while Dick McGruther was endorsed as an ARU life member.

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