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Ticketing and sponsorship uplifts generate RFU revenue jump

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has posted group revenues of £213.2m ($297.1m/€251.4m) for the 2018-19 season, up by £40.8m on the previous year, driven largely by an increase in international matches played at Twickenham over the season.

The RFU said that increased broadcast and ticket income was raised from an additional autumn international match in 2018 and a second-place finish in the Six Nations compared to fifth place the previous year.

England played four autumn internationals in 2018 against top-class opposition in South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, as well as three Six Nations matches in 2019 against France, Italy and Scotland.

The previous year, Twickenham had staged three autumn internationals against Argentina, Australia and Samoa, two Six Nations matches against Wales and Ireland and one match against the Barbarians.

Stronger sponsorship revenues also contributed to the increases. Sponsorship revenue increased by £3.5m (12 per cent), from £29.3m to £32.8m in the year, built on renewals and new business.

IBM, Unilever and CBRE all renewed their sponsorship arrangements, while new partnerships were signed with British Airways, Majestic Wine, Coco Fuzion, Optimum Nutrition, Simplyhealth and Irwin Mitchell.

While the sponsorship market remains “challenging”, the RFU said that “sponsorship arrangements remain high-value for the strongest international sports brands, albeit sophisticated marketing professionals are required to secure, activate and maintain them”.

Overall, profits before rugby investment increased 39-per-cent year-on-year to £115.4m, with operating profits rising to £14.9m, compared to losses the previous year of £24.4m.

The RFU’s line-by-line revenue streams for 2018-19 were as follows:

  • Ticket revenues increased by £17.7m (59%) from £29.9m to £47.6m
  • Broadcasting revenue increased by £8.5m (21%), from £41.2m to £49.7m
  • Sponsorship revenue increased by £3.5m (12%), from £29.3m to £32.8m
  • Hospitality and catering income increased by £13.3m (32%), from £41.2m to £54.5m
  • Merchandising and licensing revenue reduced by £2m (44%) in year from £4.5m to £2.5m
  • Event hire fees reduced by £0.8m (-21%), from £3.8m to £3m
  • Funding from World Rugby and Sport England increased by £0.6m (9.2%) from £6.5m to £7.1m.

The 2019-20 season will be loss-making because of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, which reduced the number of big- ticket games played at Twickenham.