Welsh Rugby Union: £63m record turnover in Grand Slam year

Six Nations victory for Wales was matched by financial success

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The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) recorded revenue of £63m last year, its highest ever turnover, its annual report shows.

The Millennium Stadium debt, which was about £75m when the ground was built in 1999, is now £19m, the report said.

The figures for the Grand Slam year ending June 2012 showed a pre-tax profit of £2.4m and the WRU said it was on target to be debt-free by 2021.

But warnings that more should be done to reduce regional sides' debt have been raised.

The WRU said the results showed it had the highest year-on-year growth rate of any of the major rugby unions between 2007 and 2011.

Analysis

So how much of this financial success is down to the management, or a lucky combination of talented players, strong Welsh fans and three home matches in the Six Nations?

While the players and fans are big factors, this is also a union focused on maximising revenues.

The cash cow is home rugby matches at the Millennium Stadium and the union sweats its asset, with seven home games in total last season, even though there were no Autumn internationals because of the Rugby World Cup.

Commercial income was up 9% and the WRU makes no secret of making a £10m bid to buy Cardiff Arms Park and wanting to develop land adjoining the stadium.

The year to the end of June included three home matches in the Six Nations, which is a known boost for revenue.

The feelgood factor from winning the Grand Slam for the third time in eight years was also mentioned in the annual report.

The report showed a £4.1m rise in player costs, which included the extra matches played in the Rugby World Cup and Grand Slam bonuses.

The total financial package paid to chief executive Roger Lewis was £321,000, a marginal rise on the previous year.

Mr Lewis said the growth in revenue had been remarkable, adding: "The best is yet to come".

He thanked players, volunteers, officials and supporters, and said: "Together we can continue to take Wales to the world, welcome the world to Wales and play our part in defining Wales as a proud and united nation."

Among the future challenges, Mr Lewis cited the difficult financial circumstances of the regions and the loss of high-profile players who moved to clubs in France.

'Regions more indebted'

Paul Rees, rugby writer for the Guardian and Observer, said: "The WRU debt is coming down and down, but the regions are more indebted.

"It seems to come at the expense of the regions."

Start Quote

The big danger is if there's more and more of a push to France, and what it does for regional rugby”

End Quote Paul Rees Rugby writer

He said the figures were good for the WRU, but questioned whether they were the same for Welsh rugby.

He said Cardiff Blues' recent defeat to Ulster was a "shocker" and warned that "the big danger is if there's more and more of a push to France, and what it does for regional rugby".

That, he said, could lead to a shrinking of the Welsh game and a rise in regional debt which could ultimately affect the WRU.

And former Newport benefactor Tony Brown has accused the Welsh Rugby Union of letting the regions "bleed to death."

The WRU's report said it allocated £20.1m to the regions, semi-professional clubs and community rugby, a rise of 4% on the year and 35% over the past five years.

Within that £20.1m, Wales' four regions received £6.2m to pay for the release of their international players.

In total, there was a 1% rise in money that went to the regions from the WRU compared with the previous year.

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