NSW Rugby Union announces 2023 results at AGM

Tue, Apr 30, 2024, 11:41 PM
Waratahs Media
by Waratahs Media

The NSW Rugby Union (NSWRU) Board delivered its 2023 Annual Report at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held last night.

Chairman of the NSWRU Board, Tony Crawford, said:

It's an honour to present this report for the third time as Chairman of the NSWRU Board.

Rising costs against diminishing returns and reduced funding from Rugby Australia necessitate clear decisions to ensure the sustainability of the game. I am delighted to report that NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia have joined forces to establish a new fully integrated model for professional rugby delivery. From player contracting to pathway development, in 2023 NSW Rugby spearheaded this transformative journey, working hand in hand with Rugby Australia to achieve long-term success for our men's and women's teams.

As of January 1, 2024, a new joint governance model for the NSW Waratahs has been implemented, with directors appointed by both Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs. This model, fully funded by Rugby Australia, aims to maximise the benefits of coordinating high-performance programs and driving improved results both on and off the field. It recognises the invaluable role of the Waratahs in our local market and their contribution to the national program.

Amidst these structural changes, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the community game. NSW Rugby will continue to prioritise programs that grow the sport, attract more participants, and improve pathways for players, coaches, officials, and volunteers. Assets such as the NSW Rugby HQ and the Waratahs trademarks will remain under the ownership of NSW Rugby, ensuring the preservation of our proud history as we celebrate our 150th Anniversary in 2024.

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Mark Ella AM and Dr. Myles Coolican, who were honoured as Life Members at last year's AGM. We also bid farewell to Al Baxter, whose remarkable career on and off the field has left an indelible mark on NSW Rugby. We mourn the loss of Ms. Robin Timmins OAM, Mr. Richard "Dick" Shaw, Eric Tweedale, and Rob Hemming, whose contributions to the game will be cherished and remembered.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the unwavering dedication of our management team and staff at NSW Rugby, led by CEO Paul Doorn, and the commitment of my fellow board members. I extend my deepest gratitude to retiring NSWRU Board Directors Katrina Rathie, Richard Harry, David Harrison, and Deputy Chair John Morrison for their invaluable contributions to the governance of NSW Rugby.

In closing, I thank each and every one of you for your continued support as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Together, we will continue to uphold the values of NSW Rugby and ensure its enduring success for generations to come.

NSWRU CEO, Paul Doorn, said:

Our vision to become the leading provincial rugby organisation in the world is not just about winning titles or achieving commercial success. It's about fostering a love for the game and ensuring that rugby remains accessible to all.

To achieve this vision, we've invested significantly in community rugby activities, allocating approximately $6.5 million in 2023. We've expanded our team of development staff, ensuring that they are on the ground, week in and week out, supporting clubs with recruitment, retention, coaching and other ‘Rugby for Good’ initiatives.

As I get the opportunity to attend many, many games of rugby throughout the year, I am always so in awe of the countless individuals whose dedication and passion make rugby the vibrant and inclusive sport that it is. I want to take this moment to express my deepest appreciation to the thousands of volunteers, club administrators, officials, and referees who selflessly dedicate their time to ensure that rugby can be enjoyed by all. From the parents who support junior rugby to the volunteers who maintain our grounds, each one of you plays a crucial role in fostering a sense of community and belonging within our sport. On behalf of NSW Rugby, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.

At the heart of our strategic plan lies a commitment to engaging with our community, bridging the gap between the professional game and grassroots rugby. Our players have been actively involved in community initiatives and this engagement has not only strengthened our ties with fans but has also contributed to increased attendance and membership numbers. The return to the new Sydney Football Stadium has been met with enthusiasm, with increased crowds, ticket sales and memberships.

Despite these revenue-driving initiatives, after a 4-year absence from the Sydney Football Stadium, while the new stadium was being constructed, the sources of income for membership, gate takings from home games, and sponsorship revenue in 2023 were lower than expected.  Lower home game attendance and a poor win/loss record challenged our income sources.  Broadcast revenue distributed to the Super Rugby Clubs via Rugby Australia also declined. In addition, fixed costs remained for players, coaches and the high-performance program. This imbalance has been a significant contributor to financial stress for all Australian Super Rugby Clubs, including the Waratahs.

As a result, in 2023, NSW Rugby will record a deficit of $4.8m.

As outlined by the Chairman, NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia have reached an agreement to transfer the responsibility for the NSW Waratahs professional rugby business to Rugby Australia from 1 January 2024. While this transition presents its own set of challenges, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the community game, ensuring that rugby remains accessible and inclusive for all. NSW Rugby remains a Member Union – responsible for the development of community rugby in NSW.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the NSW Rugby Board, our affiliates, staff, players, officials, volunteers, and fans who continue to support and grow the game.

In closing, I am filled with optimism for the future of rugby in NSW. Together, we will overcome challenges, celebrate successes, and continue to build a sport that brings joy and unity to communities across the state.