Tri-Nations' financial success sums up health of the game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 September, 2010, 12:00am

Organisers of Rugby World Cup 2011 can take great heart from an economic impact assessment of this year's Tri-Nations which showed the game is booming - both on and off the pitch.

More than US$174.3 million (HK$1.3 billion) flowed into the sports and leisure economies across the southern hemisphere as attendances rose 13 per cent from 2009 with nearly half a million people attending the matches and games exceeding record viewership in New Zealand.

The biggest winner is Sydney, especially when the All Blacks come to town. It benefits to the tune of US$28 million as tens of thousands of fans converge on the capital and revel in its myriad attractions.

Johannesburg also cashed in with a US$19.6 million spin-off. Auckland, which will host the World Cup semi-finals and final next October, only netted US$8 million, but that was due to the stadium being renovated and capacity reduced to less than half. The impact report is the second on global rugby commissioned by MasterCard, a main sponsor of Rugby World Cup 2011, after its Six Nations research showed rugby was growing in popularity and booming commercially. The report put the total economic impact at US$632.8 million, with England topping the charts at US$132.8 million.

A third study is under way covering the emerging markets, including China, and will be released at the end of this year. Part four, a Rugby World Cup 2011 report, is due to be released during the tournament.

The Tri-Nations report highlights a 'commercially strong picture for southern hemisphere rugby', which will give cities in New Zealand great encouragement, especially Christchurch which is recovering from the earthquake. It reaped a US$12 million windfall from the Tri-Nations.

The estimates are based on 'analysis of attendance, television audience, visitor spend and other economic indicators'.

'The Rugby World Cup will also be beneficial in terms of engaging the rugby public, with an expected increase in participation and attendance,' said the report, conducted by the Centre for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University in England.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup in France was beamed to more than 200 countries and reached a cumulative audience of 4.3 billion viewers. A world cup property is 'priceless', as a US District Court judge remarked four years ago when MasterCard and Visa engaged in a battle for sponsorship rights for the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

'MasterCard's loss of the next Fifa World Cup sponsorship would be, in now-famous words, 'priceless',' judge Loretta Preska said in her ruling. Fifa was humiliated by the judge for lying repeatedly to MasterCard, and the case was evidently settled when MasterCard agreed to drop the legal fight in return for US$90 million.

The credit card payment provider is now working on another 'priceless' advertisement - made even more famous by spoof commercials - for next year's World Cup.

The company is already closely involved with the All Blacks, having sponsored them for the past six years, and has connected with communities by taking captain Richie McCaw, among others, on Roadshows around the country, engaging in activities such as wood sawing and gumboot throwing. McCaw professes to being an expert at both.

'Through our All Blacks Roadshow we have taken the All Blacks into communities, large and small, and given fans a chance to meet and compete in challenges with their heroes,' said Stuart Cameron, vice-president of regional sponsorships.

'In a market such as New Zealand, where the sport is the national passion, it will prove to be a great platform for us to engage with a mass audience.'