Winning season helps balance the books

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 27/07/2012

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The Chiefs are heading for their most profitable season in 17 years of professional rugby, whether they win tonight's Super Rugby semifinal or not.

But whether that means their five provincial unions can look forward to a bigger handout than in 2009 - the only year the Chiefs have so far reached a final - is another matter.

The Chiefs have had two financially disastrous seasons since, requiring them to go cap in hand to the New Zealand Rugby Union for loans in the region of $400,000 and $500,000 each time to bail them out.

Now, the Chiefs board will have to decide at the end of this season how much they put towards a speedier repayment of those loans, how much might be invested as a hedge against future bad seasons, and how much will be distributed to the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Counties-Manukau, King Country and Thames Valley unions that make up the Chiefs region.

“It's going to be ahead of 2009, that's for sure,” Chiefs chief executive Gary Dawson said of this year's financial result.

“But what it will do is help us recover from the poor seasons we had in 2010 and 2011.”

Dawson said much would depend on whether the Chiefs managed to win against the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium tonight and qualified for their second final, regardless of whether it was in Cape Town or Hamilton.

“These will all be board decisions that have to be made in terms of a lot of other things as well but, certainly, it has been a very good year for us and hopefully it continues for another week.”

The Chiefs made a profit of just under half a million dollars in 2009 when the team also qualified second for the playoffs, beat the Hurricanes in a home semifinal and then travelled to Pretoria in South Africa to play the Bulls in the final where they were walloped 61-17.

“We'll be ahead of that this year,” Dawson said.

Until the board had the chance to look at the final numbers for their financial year after it ended on August 31, they would not know how much profit they had made and therefore be in a position to consider their options.

“I don't want to give you any numbers because it's a bit of a moving target at the moment,” he said.

The Chiefs have had one sellout (25,000) game this year - the regular season home fixture against the Crusaders three weeks ago - but their home crowds have generally been well above those of the past couple of years.

This is only the second year of the expanded 15-team competition, with its conference structure that provides for eight regular season home matches.

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Tonight's semifinal is also expected to be a sellout but out of the profits from that the Chiefs have to pay a fee of $A100,000 to the Crusaders, as well as a portion of their travel and accommodation costs.

The same would apply to a home final with the fee going up and obviously the costs for a team travelling from South Africa rising sharply, considering 24 players and a management team of nine flying business class and staying here for a week.

If the Chiefs win tonight and have to travel to the Republic to play the Stormers in Cape Town, they would in turn be paid a fee by the latter.

“It's not as lucrative as people might think [to host a playoff game], because there are some significant costs associated with it,” Dawson said.

“But while it's important that we make a profit, I think it's also important for the Chiefs fans that we have home semifinals and hopefully a home final, because we get tremendous support from them and it would be good to have those games in front of home crowds.”

Dawson said teams with a relatively small stadium like the Chiefs were at a financial disadvantage to those like the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa who had huge stadiums and for whom the fees were a much smaller percentage of their gate. evan.pegden@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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