Crusaders' finances back in black for 2012

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
Crusaders
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
BACK IN THE BLACK: The Crusaders have rebounded from 2011's $700,000 loss to post a modest profit for 2012.

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The Crusaders have rebounded with a $87,147 profit, after last season's $696,300 loss.

But playing at the new AMI Stadium has come at a price for the Super Rugby franchise who will be expected to keep sacrificing half their trading surplus to the Christchurch Stadium Trust, which owns the ground.

Had the Crusaders not cut a deal with the Government to pay that lump sum to the trust, the 2012 profit would have been $174,294.

On top of paying out 50 per cent of their profit, the Crusaders and the Canterbury Rugby Football Union must also continue to pay a combined annual rent of $1.235 million to the trust.

That fee is understood to be one of the country's biggest, but given the circumstances they faced last year, when they had no first-class ground, the Crusaders and the CRFU acknowledge they are in no position to complain.

The Addington arena has been built to last between three to five years.

"That is a legitimate expense - like all sort of other bills, our obligation is to make that payment. And the really good news is we got ourselves in the black and we did that on the back of the stadium," Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said.

"We have said how grateful we are to the Government for building that. Part of our return commitment with them was that if we had our noses in front we would share the profit."

The AMI Stadium project, which cost $30m, was fully funded by the Government. From next year, the trust will face a cost of about $750,000 annually to lease the seats and an annual insurance bill of $500,000.

Riach noted the Crusaders' profit exceeded his expectations 12 months ago. "We thought we would have a very real chance of breaking even at the start of the year. We knew that the Crusaders regional market was ready to watch them play here again.

"That turned out to be true and at the same time we got some very good traction with the commercial market."

Playing back in Christchurch has enabled the franchise to again sell season passes and woo back sponsors and commercial partners who copped a hammering during the natural disaster.

Although the Crusaders' administrators have done well to surge back into the black and reduce their loan to the NZRU, the days of posting seven-figure surpluses appear to be numbered until a bigger stadium is built.

Whereas Lancaster Park could seat about 40,000 fans, AMI Stadium's capacity - unless temporary seating is added - is about 18,000.

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"We will struggle to make $1 million, because we just don't have the gate, but we are now getting crowds and good support," Riach said. "We are optimistic we will flourish in the future."

The Crusaders are also continuing to work through business interruption insurance claims. They have already been awarded $500,000, but that has gone to the New Zealand Rugby Union who loaned $800,000 after the earthquakes. Just $200,000 of that amount is outstanding.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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