They’re even publicly considering privatising – but only if the right offer comes along.
From drowning in a $27.1 million debt and admitting to being on the brink of “catastrophe” two devastating, COVID-ravaged years ago, RA has cautiously recorded an $8.2 million surplus for 2022.
“We’re certainly not out of the woods,” RA chairman Hamish McLennan said after announcing the incredible turnaround.
“We’ve just got to make sure we protect and ring fence and use strategically, again, investing into grassroots and the community game.
“Because that’s where the future of the game does lie, as well as supplementing and giving a good boost to the high performance side of the game as well.”
Amid the excitement, RA chief executive Andy Marinos wasn’t happy with reports of RA owing World Rugby $40 million for apparently bailing them out.
Marinos pointed out that much of the $40 million ‘borrowed” from World Rugby was an advance from what RA would receive – like most nations – from the 2023 tournament in France.
Marinos believes RA needs to take “a leaf out of the book of AOC” in how the Australian Olympic Committee cashed in on hosting the 2000 Sydney Games.
“They got that money, they put it into a future fund, they protected it and they invested it and they’ve used the dividends coming out of that to reinvest back into the game,” he said.
“They’ve been able to grow it exponentially over the last 15 to 20 years.
“So it’s that sort of mindset that we’re going to adopt, make sure that we are protected.
“We know we can be frugal, we know we can be disciplined.”
RA openly admits it is considering going down the privatisation path like New Zealand and South Africa – but won’t sell out on the cheap.
“We firstly don’t have to complete the process if we’re not happy. So we’re testing the water,” McLennan said.
“We’ve had a really good response from the market. We think conceptually it makes sense and we need to increase and accelerate the investment in grassroots and in player development.
“So if it can all marry up and make sense, then we’ll do it. If we don’t get the money we want, then we can absolutely survive and we’ve got those big events coming.
“South Africa are rumoured to be doing a deal with CVC, Silver Lake have completed with the All Blacks. We’re the last big tier-one in this part of the world to go.
“So we think there’ll be the right competitive tension.
“If it makes sense and it can help further the game, against really fierce competition against the AFL, the NRL and soccer is on the rise, we think it’s right that we do a deal now if we can on our terms.”