RFU slashing investment by up to £13million after ugly financial report

The RFU is cutting overall investment in the sport by up to £13 million. David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is cutting overall investment in the sport by up to £13million after an ugly financial report revealed revenue has fallen for a second consecutive year.

In the 12 months to the end of June, the world's richest rugby union saw a record investment of almost £108m in the game but a £12.5m fall in income and 54 redundancies.

According to reports in The Telegraph, RFU bosses revealed an operating loss of £30.9m for the year but have denied that this significant annual loss will have any impact on Eddie Jones' preparations for the 2019 World Cup.

Speaking to reporters on the day the union's accounts were published, chief executive Steve Brown said the last year can be seen as a "transition point" from a long run of financial growth to a period of "greater uncertainty" for the wider economy, the sports market and the RFU.

Brown went on to state that despite the loss, a £31million one-off cash boost from restructuring its Twickenham hospitality joint venture with Compass had enabled it to meet its investment target and top up its reserves.

That drop can be largely accounted for by lower ticket and broadcast revenues for England having two fewer home games than a year before, but the RFU has admitted it will have to reduce the amount it puts back into rugby in the future.

Brown admitted that one way to make the situation more commercially sustainable would be to reduce England players' £25,000 match fees. As well as stating that an overspend on the England squad, largely as a result of a high turnover of players through injury rather than in the coaching ranks, had contributed to the union's financial plight.

Asked if this meant he had given the clubs and players too much money, Brown said: "Who knows? It was the right amount at the right time.

"There are reasons why you could say it was expensive but we have the best relationship with the professional game we've ever had and we've got a win rate of more than 80 per cent since signing the deal.

"The Rugby World Cup is a very significant focus for us, it's our number one priority.

"Like every budget-holder, Eddie and his team know they have to live within their numbers and they are doing it.

"We have a clear line of sight on costs and it's about making sure it's affordable because we want to win it."

The importance of success in Japan next year cannot be overstated as all non-host nations suffer a financial hit in Rugby World Cup years and a successful England team drives all of the RFU's key income-generators: broadcast, hospitality and tickets.