USA Rugby, observers say, should concentrate on getting income from events rather than depending on the IRB or membership dues, and Saturday’s 20,000-fan attendance from the USA v. Ireland game was a step in that direction.
Nigel Melville, USA Rugby’s CEO, said the attendance at the game was gratifying, and should produce a nice payday for the organization. He wouldn’t say how much, saying that costs and breakdowns need to be straightened out, and, he added, that the Eagles 15s team has some added expenses this year, what with the Pacific Nations Cup and a tour to Europe in the fall.
We asked Melville to guess on gross or net from the game, but he wouldn’t, although he did say gross would be less than $1 million. It’s worth noting that tickets for Saturday’s test match were significantly higher than those for last year. The cheapest tickets and the high-end tickets sold out in spots, and with the other tickets in the $30-$50-$60 range, you could spend a nice evening speculating on how much that is, and you’d probably be wrong. It's fair to guess that the total ticket take will exceed $500,000 and likely is much more … maybe $800,000 or more. Six-figure paydays are rare and welcome for USA Rugby.
“Our top sources of income are membership dues and sponsorship,” said Melville. “We do want to increase the amount of income we get from other sources, including events. We wanted to build on what we did last year in Houston, and we hope to build on this also.”
The third-largest source of income is grants from the IRB.
Last year the USA v. Italy game set a US test match record with just over 17,000. Saturday broke that record by about 17 percent. Now the Eagles hope to show some attendance staying power with Friday’s match against Tonga. After that they host Canada in Charleston, SC, and then the New Zealand Maori November 9 in Phildelphia. This year, USA Rugby will have four chances to use the Men’s Eagles team to showcase the game on American soil, and to bring in more income. If those games even approximate the success in Houston, then USA Rugby could be looking at as much as $1million net from those events.
In 2011 USA Rugby claimed $172,000 income from events and $414,000 in expenses. So that would be a huge increase, and one that could move events past the IRB as a source of revenue.
But for that to happen, USA Rugby has to keep at it. Their successes have to increase, from one game a year to three or four, from the Men’s Eagles to the Women’s Eagles and club championships, as well. They cannot sit on their laurels.
Reports are that over 10,000 tickets have been pre-sold for USA v. Tonga. That’s a start; let’s see how 2013 finishes.
Top-Attended American rugby events 2012-2013
February 9, 2013 USA 7s Day 2 (Las Vegas) 31,228
February 10, 2012 USA 7s Day 2 (Las Vegas) 30,112
February 10, 2013 USA 7s Day 3 (Las Vegas) 24,702
February 11, 2012 USA 7s Day 3 (Las Vegas) 23,672
June 8, 2013 USA v. Ireland (Houston) 20,181
June 23, 2012 USA v. Italy (Houston) 17,214
February 8, 2013 USA 7s Day 1 (Las Vegas) 11,411
February 9, 2012 USA 7s Day 1 (Las Vegas) 10,323
June 1, 2013 CRC Saturday (Philadelphia) 10,252
June 2, 2012 CRC Saturday (Philadelphia) 10,123