Union kicks a $17,000 goal

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013

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The Canterbury Rugby Football Union has taken a giant stride in overcoming its previous financial nightmares by posting an operating surplus of $17,000.

Having declared an earthquake-related loss of $563,142 for 2011, the CRFU, for several reasons, can be very satisfied with the dramatic turnaround it announced at the Burnside Rugby Club last night.

It is still negotiating its business interruption insurance with NZI. If those payments had been made in full the surplus would have been $288,000.

The CRFU has also managed to navigate a difficult trading period that has tripped up a number of provincial unions who are expected to post losses due to the recession and the over-saturated rugby market.

Increased gate takings at the new AMI Stadium, sponsorship, hospitality and signage have bolstered the union's coffers after its income plummeted 79 per cent when it was forced to relocate to Rugby Park in 2011.

Like the Crusaders, the CRFU was obligated to pay half its surplus to the Christchurch Stadium Trust as part of its agreement with the Government to get AMI Stadium built.

The construction of the new stadium had a massive impact on the CRFU's balance sheet; revenue from match attendance increased 193 per cent, resulting in the coffers being boosted by $424,000. A 40 per cent increase in sponsorship, signage and hospitality was also recorded.

Not surprisingly, CRFU chief executive Hamish Riach was buoyant.

"While we are not building a balance sheet for its own sake, there is no question that getting a healthy balance sheet helps the organisation and the province," he said.

Several million dollars of assets, ranging from properties to business interests, when aligned with cash in the bank has always ensured the CRFU remains one of the country's wealthiest unions.

However, its ability to rebound after the annus horribilis of 2011 will be of major comfort - even more so if their insurers pay them out. Will they get the full amount from NZI?

"Asking that question is like asking, 'How long is a piece of string?'," Riach said.

"We remain optimistic."

The CRFU also benefited from a 36 per cent increase in donations from gaming and other community grants. The bulk of this amount, which totalled $496,000, came from the Mainland Foundation.

The CRFU's decision to diversify and set up the International High Performance Unit, overseen by former Canterbury assistant coach John Haggart, continues to pay dividends.

The Brazilian Rugby Union is now one of its major clients, signing a four-year partnership, and the CRFU will send its staff to assist them at their base in Sao Paulo.

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"Brazil are trying to make the most of the 2016 Olympics - this is a multilayered arrangement involving men, women and sevens rugby," Riach said.

The IHPU also has relationships with clubs in Russia, Japan, Portugal, Kenya and France.

Ken Pope and Wayne McWhirter replaced the outgoing David Rhodes and Dennis Connolly on the CRFU board.

There were only two nominations for three vacant positions. The board will consider whether to add another director at its next meeting.

Pope, previously the CRFU president, was replaced by vice-president Warwick Taylor. Wayne Burleigh replaced Taylor.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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