Rugby Australia Holds 2019 Annual General Meeting

by Rugby Australia

Rugby Australia (Rugby AU) today held its 2019 its Annual General Meeting.

Today’s meeting was held via video conference to adhere to Government health and safety regulations while Rugby, and the entire sports industry continues to grapple with the implications of the global pandemic of Coronavirus and its ongoing effect on the industry and the wider community.

One of the implications for Rugby Australia as a result of the pandemic was that it was not able to present a full set of audited financial accounts at the meeting, due to the uncertainty surrounding the business into 2020 and beyond while Government restrictions remain in place preventing the delivery of Rugby content to satisfy the needs of fans, members, broadcasters and corporate partners.

While an update on Rugby Australia’s finances was provided to Members at the meeting, the company’s Annual Report will not be issued until audited accounts can be delivered.As expected, in a Rugby World Cup year with reductions in broadcast and match day revenue from fewer domestic Test matches, Rugby AU operated at a loss in 2019.

All revenue targets were met, however Rugby AU’s operating expenditure increased by $6.6 million in 2019 across Community Rugby (increased grants), High Performance (player payments), Marketing and Corporate expenses (including legal costs and the settlement of the Israel Folau matter). Rugby AU reported to its Members a provisional $9.4 million operating defecit for 2019 pending final audit.

In 2019, Rugby AU continued working under its revised 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, which provides a framework for Australian Rugby to achieve its vision: “To inspire all Australians to enjoy our great global game”.

Highlights from the year included:

  • Growth in XVs Rugby participation nationally, driven by a third consecutive year of double-digit growth in female participation
  • An additional five successful schools-based XVs competitions were launched, involving almost 500 male students from 17 non-traditional Rugby schools
  • The Wallabies scored a record victory over New Zealand in front of a ground-record attendance at Perth’s Optus Stadium as part of the first trans-Tasman double header played in the West
  • The Buildcorp Wallaroos won their first series on home soil, defeating Japan 2-0 after victories in Newcastle and Sydney
  • The Junior Wallabies (formerly known as Australia U20’s) won their first Oceania Championship, defeating New Zealand, before going on a memorable run at the Junior World Cup, narrowly losing the Final to France
  • The Australian Schools & Under 18s team complete an undefeated tour of New Zealand, including their first victory over NZ Schools since 2012
  • The Qantas Australian Women’s and Men’s teams qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
  • Angus Gardner and Nic Berry officiated at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – the first time two Australian referees had been selected for the World Cup since 2003
  • The #Goldblooded community tour, where Classic Wallabies hosted free clinics and events across the country, reached over 18,000 Australian children across 100+ locations in regional and metro areas to build support for the Wallabies ahead of the World Cup
  • Rugby Australia launched the #dreamBIGtime tour to unearth new Indigenous talent and showcase Rugby through remote Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities – a sixth-month project stretching thousands of kilometres of land

While the Israel Folau matter dominated the narrative around the sport for large parts of the year, Rugby AU’s confidential settlement with Folau in November enabled the game to move on from the issue, and importantly has avoided a potentially long and protracted, and very expensive court process.

With the current Coronavirus issue rapidly-evolving and its implications for the sport set to be far-reaching, Rugby AU is required to action significant cuts across the business for the sport to remain financially viable in the short term.

Rugby Australia Chairman, Paul McLean said: “These are unprecedented and extremely uncertain times for our world, not only our sport with the global pandemic of COVID-19.“To put it simply, there is no way of knowing what damage this crisis will have on our game, or for how long it will continue to impact us.

“It has forced us to make some extremely difficult decisions, and there will be even harder decisions to come as we continue to navigate the implications of the virus on the game’s finances.

“It was important for us today to review the year and reflect on our learnings from 2019, however the uncertainty that we are facing regarding our immediate future naturally led the discussion at the meeting.”

Rugby Australia Board elections

The AGM included the election of one new Board Director and the appointment of two new Board Directors, along with the re-election of Director, Mr Paul McLean. Members were also notified of the resignation of Directors, Mr Brett Robinson and Mr Cameron Clyne.

Mr Clyne has served as Director since October 2013. He was appointed Chairman in January 2016 and stepped down as Chair in February 2020. Mr Robinson joined the Board in April 2011 and was appointed Deputy Chairman in January 2016. Mr Robinson had reached his maximum term of nine years as a Director.

Mr Peter Wiggs was elected as a Director. Mr Wiggs is CEO and Founding Partner of Archer Capital, one of Australia’s most successful private equity investors with $2.5 billion invested in 31 countries. He is currently Chairman of Supercars. Mr Wiggs has an over 50-year connection to Mosman Rugby Club as a player of 19 seasons, Life Member and financial supporter.

In addition to the election of Mr Wiggs, the Board appointed two new Directors, Mr Brett Godfrey and Mr Daniel Herbert. These new Directors filled vacancies created by the resignations of Board-appointed Directors, Ms Ann Sherry (vacated position in April 2019) and Mr Brett Robinson.

Mr Godfrey is the former Chief Executive of Virgin Australia. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant and oversees an investment vehicle that takes controlling positions in predominantly tourism related assets and start-ups. He had a 25-year career in the aviation industry including conceptualising, establishing and leading Virgin Australia, where he served as Chief Executive for 10 years. As a Rugby player, he represented Victorian Schools, Victoria U21s, Australian Schools Division 2, and the Victorian Senior State team.

Mr Herbert is the Chief Executive of SSKB, a strata management business with 30 employees and 700 client contracts under management across five distributed offices on the eastern seaboard of Australia. He previously served eight years as a senior executive at Queensland Rugby Union, and is a former Captain of the Queensland Reds and Vice Captain of the Wallabies. He earned 67 caps for Australia and 124 caps for Queensland.