Rugby World Cup on track to break 2015 revenue figures, says chief commercial officer Hill

The Rugby World Cup in Japan is on track to break the revenue record set by the 2015 tournament in England according to World Rugby’s chief commercial officer Tom Hill.

This year’s event is the first World Cup to take place outside of the traditional rugby-playing nations. Initially it was thought the unfavourable time zone would undermine media sales in the lucrative French and UK television markets, while the comparative weakness of the host team had the potential to limit domestic interest and the local commercial programme.

“Originally we were cautious about how well we thought it would go with regards to commercial and broadcasting, but it’s been more positive in terms of growth than we’d ever anticipated,” said Hill in an extended interview with SportBusiness.

“Commercial revenues are up. Broadcast revenues are up…Ticket sales are better than 2015. Sponsorship revenues are up. We were thinking potentially it wouldn’t be as attractive for sponsors as 2015, given the time zone, but that certainly hasn’t been the case.”

Hill credits the decision to announce the hosts for the 2015 and 2019 tournaments at the same time, and in some cases package the media rights to the 2019 event with either the 2015 or 2023 tournament, for helping to overcome broadcaster misgivings about the first Rugby World Cup in Asia.

The bundling strategy looks to have paid particular dividends in France where broadcaster TF1 is thought to have overpaid for the rights to the tournament in Japan to secure an option for the rights to the tournament in France in 2023.

“I think partners would prefer to have much greater visibility of the long-term, so a number of our broadcast deals were dual deals, including 2019 and 2023,” said Hill.

Land Rover and Société Générale are also thought to have paid 25 per cent increases to renew their Worldwide Partners rights for the 2019 World Cup to protect their positions for the 2023 edition.

The announcement that France would host the 2023 saw World Rugby revert to announcing the future host just one tournament in advance, but Hill suggests it might return to announcing two hosts at once in the future.

“Perhaps we’ll award 2027 and 2031 at the same time and then people have comfort and confidence in terms of knowing the future,” he says.

To read the full interview with Tom Hill, and see our analysis of the media and sponsorship revenues generated by the 2019 tournament, click here.