Bulls playoff is no cash cow for the Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2012
Hamish Riach
Getty Images
HAMISH RIACH: "We probably won't make money out of this but we are just delighted to have this game."

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Hosting the Bulls is likely to punch the Crusaders in the pocket.

Although Saturday night's Super Rugby qualifying final at AMI Stadium offers the franchise the chance to earn extra revenue through gate takings, it is likely to be offset by a series of large fees.

Sanzar dictates teams hosting a qualifying final must pay the visiting side $96,000.

This increases to $128,000 for the semis and $160,000 for the grand final. In addition to paying the Bulls the visitors' fee, the Crusaders must meet the South African team's flights, accommodation and food costs.

When the Crusaders hosted the Durban-based Sharks for last year's qualifying final in Nelson, the transport, accommodation and food bill hit $126,000.

In addition, they drew a crowd of only 12,000 at Trafalgar Park.

Although the Bulls' expenses will be less because there will be no need for as many connecting flights, they will still be significant.

To aid their recovery following last weekend's match against the Lions, the South Africans are entitled to travel business or first-class and will stay at the Clearwater Resort on the outskirts of Christchurch.

The New Zealand Rugby Union has an arrangement under the franchise agreement where they recoup the expenses of visiting teams' overheads by billing their franchises during the playoffs. Sanzar meets travel costs during the regular season.

The Crusaders are expecting to only break even or report a small profit this year after recording a $700,000 loss last season because Lancaster Park was damaged in the earthquakes and they were unable to maximise their earning potential.

Although chief executive Hamish Riach went to some lengths to accentuate the Crusaders were just happy to host a playoff match, he acknowledged they were not budgeting on this weekend's match adding cash to their balance sheet.

"No, we probably won't make money out of this but we are just delighted to have this game. If you look at last year, when we went through all three finals matches, we approximately broke even," Riach noted.

"Yes, money is important but it must be remembered it is fantastic to again be in the finals and to be hosting one in Christchurch for the first time since 2008."

The price of tickets, which go on sale this morning, will increase and it is highly likely this will be the Crusaders' final match in Christchurch this season.

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There is a very slight chance the Crusaders could return for a final but that would require the Sharks to beat the Reds in Brisbane this weekend and knock over the Stormers in Cape Town in the semi.

The Crusaders would also have to beat the Bulls and then the Chiefs in the other semi in Hamilton.

Although the Crusaders often struggled to sell tickets to the semis at the old stadium, which had a capacity of about 34,000, there should be no such issues this week.

The smaller Addington ground, which has a capacity of about 20,000, should be a sellout.

Riach said the Crusaders, who last year received an $800,000 loan from the NZRU to assist them to continue to operate after the earthquakes, were still working through their business interruption insurance issues.

- Canterbury

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