ARU chief Bill Pulver believes rugby’s governing body in Australia has made “outstanding” financial progress despite recording a $6.3 million loss for 2014.
Releasing its annual report for last year, the ARU said it had achieved an underlying business surplus of $700,000 but an overall deficit “in a year that focused on driving a sustainable future for the game through direct grants to member unions and the delivery of national programs.”
Pulver, who took over as chief executive from John O’Neill in 2013, blamed the financial model under the ARU’s previous administration for his organisation’s current predicament.
“I walked into a game which had survived historically in Australia on periodic windfalls,” Pulver said at the AAP Sports Editors Conference on Tuesday.
“The British Lions tour to Australia (in 2013) was nine matches in Australia and about a $50 million enterprise and about 50 per cent of that plus was profit.
“Every occasional period, we have a World Cup and the last one in Australia was in 2003 and we made about a $40 million profit from that.
“So the game has survived historically from massive financial windfalls which we used to basically fund regular losses in the range of five to 10 million dollars a year.”
Pulver, whose salary was listed as $735,885, said “the last couple of years has really been about turnaround mode”.
“Now, we have made outstanding progress in the last couple of years dealing with that,” he said.
“We’ve basically had an aggressive cost-cutting program and we’re just in the final throes of negotiating broadcasts agreements that we think will set us up financially in great shape for the period of 2016 to 2020.”
In its 2014 report, the ARU said it would now seek feedback from rugby fans and stakeholders to “drive its next five-year strategy and future investment at all levels of the game”.
ARU chairman Michael Hawker said the process to collate feedback was already underway, with CEOs of member unions and Super Rugby clubs taking part in a strategy workshop on Monday.
“With our new broadcast deal nearly finalised, we’re confident we will have a secure financial future for our game,” Hawker said.
“We see our strategy moving from providing financial security to judicious investment to grow rugby, and we’re keen for our fans and the rugby community to contribute to our future strategy.
The ARU said participation in the game had grown by 12 per cent in 2014 while it had invested $3.7 million in direct grants to member unions and $4.3 million was provided in funding for the delivery of ARU programs nationally.
The report said he did not take incentive payments he was also entitled to during 2013 and 2014.