Australian Rugby Union in major cash crisis

Last updated 19:58 09/05/2013
Bill Pulver
Getty Images
LEAN TIMES: Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver has said a tough time for sponsorship means this year's British and Irish Lions tour will not bring the financial rewards that were originally expected.

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Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver has warned top players they will have to accept smaller contracts to play for the Wallabies due to the code's worrying financial  situation.

And Pulver has also revealed the loss of almost A$19 million over the past two years won't be off-set as much as hoped by the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour. 

Lions tours have generally been huge money-spinners for Australian rugby but next month's visit isn't about to bring the windfall that was originally expected.

''Sadly there is not as much money coming in from the Lions tour this year as we would have wanted because of a quite difficult sponsorship market,'' Pulver said in an interview with the ESPNscrum website.

''Historically we have had these periodic windfalls. Hosting the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and a ton of money came in. Every 12 years you have a British and Irish Lions tour and a  ton of money comes in.

''Australian rugby has pretty much survived on major windfalls that have covered losses until the next windfall comes in.''

He also warned Australia could not realistically be expected to host another World Cup until 2031 at the earliest, but more likely not until 2039.

''So our next windfall being 12 years away does worry me,'' he said.

Pulver admitted he was concerned by the code's financial health and felt top-line players would have to cop reduced salaries to play for the Wallabies for the good of the game.

The ARU and Super Rugby franchises struggle mostly to keep top players from taking more lucrative deals in France and Japan, which in turn prevent them from playing for Australia.

''The opportunity and the excitement associated with the Wallabies jersey should carry a lot of value,'' Pulver said.

''The lure, power and magnetism of that Wallabies jersey is significant.''

Pulver admitted Australian rugby had to do more than reduce player salaries if it was to get back in good financial shape.

''What I'm most concerned about is fan engagement,'' he said.

''It can be addressed, but turning around revenue is, on the one hand, about winning more at the elite level when 95 per cent of  your revenue comes from Super Rugby and the Wallabies, and it is also turning the entertainment package around.

''Our rusted-on rugby fans have been slipping away from the game, and we've got to get them back. We have a fair bit of work to do.''

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