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Interntional Rugby League announces huge operating loss

International Rugby League has released their latest annual report.

The 2021 IRL World Cup, staged in England last October and November, was the obvious highlight of the year and reminded us of the power and passion only international rugby league can generate.

Not only was RLWC2021 the biggest, best and most inclusive World Cup, it was also the most watched, with attendance and broadcast records smashed as the 32 men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams captured the imagination of fans around the globe.

RLWC2021 was watched by a domestic TV viewing audience of 30m, which included the highest peak audience of 3m. Significant viewing figures were seen in Australia, via Fox Sports, and in New Zealand, via Spark Sport.

The tournament delivered record crowds of 473,606, including:

the highest combined opening day attendance;
the highest men’s and women’s semi-finals crowd;
the highest men’s quarter final attendance;
the highest ever standalone crowd for a women’s rugby league game in the UK, and;
a world record wheelchair attendance.

Another highlight was the presentation of the men’s, women’s and wheelchair IRL Golden Boot awards to Joey Manu, Raecene McGregor and Sebastien Bechara in Manchester after no awards had been given since 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the international game.

The year also saw the game’s first ever continental women’s championship, in Europe, while Tonga and New Zealand women played in Auckland.

Colombia hosted the men’s South American Championship, which also featured Brazil and Chile, in the final weekend of November, while the men’s Middle East Africa Championship was staged in Ghana, with Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria the other competing nations

Kenya was among three African nations to join the IRL family in 2022, swelling the Middle East Africa region to 14 nations and the overall IRL membership to 61 nations, which has since increased with the recent admission of North Macedonia and Slovakia.

Significantly, a 10-year struggle for recognition in Greece ended when the government finally declared Greek Rugby League Federation (GRLF) as the custodians of the sport in the country on the eve of the national team’s historic participation in the World Cup.

Financially it wasn’t great because of the delay with the World Cup.

The overwhelming majority of income over any four-year financial cycle is generated from the staging of the Rugby League World Cup. Given that, at the time of preparing these accounts, no world cup had taken place since the UK Company scaled up its operations, it has historically had modest income levels compared to its operating costs.

In 2021, as the world started to emerge from the pandemic, a modest number of international fixtures were staged, generating only £3k of levy income. In the financial year ended 31st December 2021, the company had £493k of operating costs. This produced an operating loss of £490k. This compared to an operating loss of £1.2million in the previous financial year.

The principal categories of administrative expenditure are the costs of the IRL management team and the costs of third party professional advisers. Considerable savings were achieved in both of these areas which contributed the bulk of the reduction in operating costs. Additionally, grants payable to full members and confederations are now being administered through the Australian Company rather than the UK Company. Interest of £152k was paid during the year
at a commercial rate on the loan from the Australian Company. This means that overall the UK company made a trading loss of £642k.

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