Johannesburg - SA Rugby rugby needs to change - and massively - if it is to be a financial force again.
SA Rugby last week released its financial statements, proclaiming a R23.3m loss as “satisfactory” after a tough year where it lost its biggest sponsor and the Springboks failed to perform on the field.
And now SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux believes that unless the national body changes the way it thinks, and operates, and this applies to the provincial unions as well, there will be more financial pain in the future.
Roux explained that the hole left by the loss of Absa as SA Rugby’s main sponsor was a massive one, and that some clever accounting by the union managed to keep the losses a lot lower than they could have been.
“It is a complex question and on the results, it is a poor year for us. We need to be honest why it was a bad year for us. In the first place we lost a sponsor at the 99th hour, along with one or two smaller sponsors which left a R130m hole in our finances,” he told supersport.com.
“A sponsorship of that value takes around 18 months to negotiate, easily. To try and save that in a year is very difficult. When we talked about a “satisfactory” result - I see people are a bit upset at the word, but the reality is that we faced R130m loss and we ended on a R23m loss.
“A part of that is because of affiliates that will be rectified or reclaimed at some stage. Actually we only made a R12m loss and that in a year where you lost 70 percent of your games, and that isn’t actually so bad.”
SA Rugby is close to a deal to replace Absa and is confident of having a new sponsor for the Springboks by the June Tests.
But as Roux says, the bigger question is how South African rugby reinvents itself in the face of the entertainment challenges posed by so many competitors in the current climate.
“That doesn’t answer the bigger question. I have a simple answer, and people say I over-simplify the matter, but before we don’t change the product on the field and before we don’t change the experience that people have at the field, we will have the same problems the whole time,” Roux said.
“So let’s talk about the problems on the field. We need to play rugby that people like. People talk about running rugby and other things, but there is only one type of rugby that people like, and that is running rugby.
“It is as simple as that. People are always carrying on about running rugby. People always carry on about New Zealanders who play running rugby.
“Anyone who knows their rugby and analyses it will know they kick you into submission, defend into submission and when the gaps open up, then they run it. They play that sort of rugby at Test level and at Super Rugby level they play open rugby but at Test level they know how they want to play.”
Roux also said the “experience” for the general fan needs to be a lot better than it currently is.
“The field experience needs to be better. It shouldn’t be a problem for people to find parking, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to get food.
“Our demographics of our supporters has changed. More than 40 percent of our spectators are women. We can’t have stadiums where there aren’t enough toilets for women or basic amenities. The product must change.
“Then we need to look at the teams that are playing, how they are playing and how they are composed.
“It is a much more complex question but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The world has already reinvented the wheel. The NFL, NBA have reinvented the wheel already.
“I always use the example - the Sydney Cricket Ground realised five years ago the average spectator is getting bigger. They took out 15 000 seats and made seats bigger, more comfortable and made the facilities better. They got more people to come to games.
“We need to have a look at the holistic picture and if we don’t do that, then we are going to continue to bleed. It won’t stop.”
SA Rugby is set to make a decision about the number of Super Rugby regions in the next few weeks.
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