SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has made no secret about the importance of the Springboks returning to the playing field in the governing body’s latest annual report.
SA Rugby released its annual report for 2020 after the governing body’s annual meeting, which stated that the austerity measures introduced last year to ensure South African rugby’s survival in the pandemic will continue in 2021.
Throughout last year, SA Rugby – even without the Springboks playing any Test rugby after pulling out of the Rugby Championship – could still rely on SuperSport and their sponsors for financial support.
However, in his 2020 presidential report, Alexander highlighted that this is going to change in 2021.
‘Last year, the rugby industry had to join hands to navigate the crises and the CEO and his team did a fantastic job securing some of the funding from the sponsors and broadcasters, considering the non-delivery of the rights sold,’ Alexander said.
‘Unfortunately, this year our rights partners are not as generous and sympathetic as last year, and funds for the rights will be directly linked to rights delivery. If there is no play, there is no payment,’ he added.
Essentially, what this means is that for the survival of South African rugby in its current form, it is crucial that the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa is able to go ahead in some way.
At this stage, everything is still on track for the Lions to arrive and play in South Africa, but the unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic means SA Rugby has yet to officially confirm the new schedule for the tour.
‘We need to further adapt to the global environment,’ Alexander wrote. ‘Springbok and international franchise activities are responsible for 82% of all our broadcast and sponsor income.
‘If we don’t participate in these events, our revenue, budget and distribution are severely impacted, which in turn affects rugby as a whole, as well as all our projects, competitions and unions.’
In terms of SA Rugby’s future income, Alexander makes no secret of the fact that the governing body is seeking a private investor in its commercial rights. Rumour has it that SA Rugby intends to sell a percentage of these rights to CVC Capital Partners – the private equity firm involved in PRO Rugby and the Six Nations.
‘With this new capital and partnerships, SA Rugby will reposition itself to commercialise future growth,’ says Alexander.
Alexander also believes that SA Rugby can bring in new income by offering fans sports content in new formats, rather than relying so heavily on television-rights deals.
‘Viewers now expect flexible viewing options and are increasingly likely to use digital and social channels to keep up to date.
‘We have a great opportunity to globalise and monetise at a vast scale. Furthermore, we will be able to collect valuable data by interacting directly with our audiences. As advertising spend migrates from traditional television to online, we can build direct relationships with a global fanbase that will be highly sought after by brands, sponsors and other commercial identities.’