Quake puts Crusaders in debt

2011-12-08 12:43

Christchurch - A massive earthquake that destroyed much of the central part of New Zealand's second-largest city and forced the Crusaders to spend the entire Super Rugby season on the road, also caused them a loss of almost NZ$700 000 for the last financial year, the team said on Thursday.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22 killed 181 people and caused the collapse of buildings in Christchurch and destroyed the playing surface and badly damaged the stands at the Crusaders' home venue of Lancaster Park.

The Crusaders, who lost the final of the competition to the Reds, spent the entire season on the road, taking games to smaller provincial centres within their region as well as to other New Zealand cities.

They also played South Africa's Sharks at Twickenham in London - the first Super rugby match to be played outside of the southern hemisphere.

"It was a pretty disruptive year and the support we received in playing in those smaller venues was outstanding but it didn't match the revenue we would have expected from a bigger venue," Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said via telephone from Christchurch of the NZ$696 300 loss.

"We tried to control costs as much as we could through the year. We were fortunate to play a couple of games where we got a good return from, (but) the smaller venues ...didn't have a fantastic financial contribution."

The match in London which was seen as a gamble had broken even, Riach said, with the crowd of "about 35 000" ensuring they covered all of their travel, accommodation and venue costs.

"The big play with the game in London, had we managed to get more people through the gate we could have made a dramatic difference to our bottom line," Riach said.

"We covered the bills, but we needed a few more people to make a difference to the bottom line.

"It was exciting to be there but in a financial sense it pretty much was neutral."

Riach said the team, which had posted a surplus of NZ$125 714 last year, was projecting a break-even situation for the next few years as they played their matches at a revamped 17 000-seater stadium in the west of the city, though he declined to make any firm financial predictions.

The NZ$20 million revamp of Rugby League Park in Addington, which was announced last month, would provide the team with a permanent home venue, but it was unlikely to be a massive cash-cow for the team, Riach said.

"We are not planning for dramatic surpluses while we are at the new stadium," he added.

"It's a 17 000-seat stadium and we need to fill it regularly and earn our revenue each week from our commercial sponsors and if we do that we should be pretty much break even ...and keep treading water for as long as we need to be there."

The loss had also not affected the playing squad with many signed to long-term agreements and Riach said he was pleased with their commitment particularly as several had also been impacted personally by the earthquake.

"We have been very excited by the group staying together," he said. "The players have largely recommitted and recontracted and want to play for the Crusaders.

"That's a huge testament to this year's team and the culture that (coach) Todd (Blackadder) and the senior players have created for that squad to want to have another crack."