Waikato Union to be debt free in two years

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Tim Mikkelson
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
SEEKING A GAP: Waikato’s Tim Mikkelson tries to evade Southland’s John Hardie in last year's NPC.

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Waikato Rugby Union chief executive Graham Bowen says the union will be free of all significant debt within two years.

At its annual meeting last night, the WRU announced a net profit of $43,456 for 2013. Bowen said debt was now well under $1 million and would be significantly reduced by the end of this year.

Things reached a crisis point for the union in 2010 and a $684,000 net loss, along with debts of $1.5 million, were revealed at the following year's annual meeting.

Two years ago the union announced a $28,000 net profit, but Bowen admitted at the time he still had trouble sleeping at night worrying about how it would repay historic debt, given just a quarter of a million dollars had been repaid in the previous 12 months.

At last year's annual meeting a net deficit of $245,000 was declared, but Bowen said that had been due to a lot of extraordinary debt write-offs in that year as the union looked to clean house.

"We're in a much better position now," he said.

External debt, owed to Westpac, would be down to $280,000 by the end of this year. The balance of debt was debentures raised from supporting individuals and companies, which were being paid off over varying periods of between three and five years.

"That's been a big relief in terms of spreading that period of time that we can reduce the debt, so it's a whole lot better picture now than it was a couple of years ago."

A $100,000 net profit has been budgeted for this year and Bowen said the union's position was a lot more stable position now, and it should be debt-free in two years.

"By the end of next year we'll have no external debt at all and then it will just be a case of paying off the debentures as they mature," he said.

The WRU has continued to trim its spending on players and competition costs by another $100,000 but Bowen said it was a balancing act between those measures and keeping Waikato in the national provincial premiership for the country's top seven teams.

Attendances at national championship games in recent years remained steady and the union was coming to terms with the changing environment of the professional rugby landscape which left the competition as strictly semi-professional.

"Despite the low ground attendances the television viewership of Waikato games was one of the highest in the country," Bowen said in his annual report.

Meanwhile, the WRU's international player development programme, while still a fairly new initiative, was starting to become a strong revenue source with big potential as rugby continued to grow in popularity around the world.

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