SCOTTISH Rugby has published its annual report for 2021-22, but, as was intimated in a communication to clubs last month, has not included finalised accounts in the document. The complexities of some of the governing body’s financial arrangements have been cited as the reason for the delay, with those complexities including a change of accountants and the arrival of a new financial director at Murrayfield.
Instead of finalised figures, the report contains what are called “summary unaudited financial statements”, which note a turnover of around £58million. Full audited accounts are expected later in the year and will be presented to a second part of the annual general meeting. The first part of the agm will take place a week on Saturday and will deal with customary annual matters such as the accession of new office-bearers.
While uncertainty over the precise state of its finances remains, Scottish Rugby appears bullish about its fortunes and asserts that its core business “has weathered Covid extremely well”. Three of the four Autumn Tests and both of the home Six Nations games were sold out, reflecting a desire to watch live rugby again following the pandemic period in which games were played behind closed doors.
According to the report, financial activity has returned “close to pre-pandemic levels”. Investment in the Six Nations Championship and the URC by private equity firm CVC has also helped the balance sheet.
A total of £20million worth of funding from the Scottish Government – a grant of £15m and the rest as a loan – was received in the financial year to 31 May 2021. £6.5m has been “earmarked to help community clubs”, with the rest helping Murrayfield maintain its structure and keep people in work.
On the pitch, the most notable success last season was the qualification by Scotland Women for this year’s Rugby World Cup. That contrasts, however, with a whitewash both for the women’s team and the under-20s in their respective Six Nations. Scotland Men won two of their five fixtures in the Championship.
A report on the national sevens sides mentions qualification for the Commonwealth Games and notes the return of the men’s team to the HSBC World Series. Since the end of the period in question, of course, it has been announced that Scotland will have to join England and Wales in competing under a Team GB banner in that series as well as at the Olympic Games.
In his report as he comes towards the end of his term in office, SRU President Ian Barr highlights the recovery of the club game after the pandemic period. “It is in club land where my final year as president gives most joy, as swathes returned to their local communities to welcome back the sport we love,” he writes. “Whether it be in a playing capacity, coaching, or simply putting in selfless time around their local communities, thousands of people have contributed, ensuring the outlook is as positive and exciting as ever before.”
In his statement, Chairman John Jeffrey also emphasises the post-pandemic return to something akin to normally, and says “one of the biggest fears associated with the pandemic – namely that we would haemorrhage playing numbers across the board – has proved unfounded”. He also pays tribute to three of his fellow former internationals who died over the past year. “The deaths of Sandy Carmichael, Tom Smith and Siobhan Cattigan hurt us all and how we cherish the rugby memories they created,” he writes.
Chief executive Mark Dodson strikes a generally optimistic note in his report, but also warns of financial challenges ahead. He writes: “The cost-of-living crisis and rising public utility bills mean that we have to be ever more innovative in finding new revenue streams, particularly at a time when BT Murrayfield Stadium itself – with the East Stand having been built in 1983 and other stands having come on stream in 1994 – requires considerable maintenance and care.
“We are facing a period of reconstruction to modernise our great stadium. Happily, ticket sales remain strong – and all involved in the sport in Scotland are grateful for that – but we can’t take that for granted and we remain committed to ensuring all fans get a quality experience.”
On a less bullish note, however, the report admits that the SRU’s investment in Old Glory, the Major League Rugby team based in Washington DC, has yet to bear fruit. But while stating that it has “written back” its investment, it insists that the future of the sport in the US may well still be bright.
“Scottish Rugby invested $1m in Old Glory over the course of two prior financial years,” it states. “While expectations of future growth potential remain significant, due to the longer trajectory to profitability and continuing cash requirements at this point, the Group has taken a cautious approach and has therefore written back the full carrying value of the investment in the financial year to 31 May 2022.
“This in no way reflects the Group’s expectations about the future of Old Glory, which continues to develop, but is instead a reflection of prudent financial management, the circumstances prevailing at the moment and rules on accounting treatment.”