WRU Annual Report Review

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 18: Wales coaches Robert Howley (r) and Warren Gatland look on during Wales training ahead of their RBS Six Nations match against Italy at Principality Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The WRU annual report has been published and after a long hard look at it, plus several hours of painful pondering, let us have a look what can be taken from the latest instalment into the WRU’s game-plan, and it’s finance report.

To quote President Dennis Gethin;

”it has once again been an interesting year in Welsh rugby”.

This is very much true, with several on-field and off-field triumphs and failures.


There are new names on the executive board this financial year, with Ryan Jones, Geraint John and Mark Killingley being added. It is also the first time the new WRU Chief Executive Officer, Martyn Phillips has written notes in the annual report. Phillips’ summary does hold a very strong light upon the Welsh game, with him proving to care for the game at all levels of the developmental pyramid–from the lower, non professional tier to the international tier.

The quote that really sums up how positive the WRU has been since his placement as CEO really has to be ”we have a clear purpose which is why we exist as an organisation.” For many fans of the clubs and ‘regions’ in Wales, he has held a satisfying approach to the game so far.

Also part of his summary, their (WRU) six elements of strategy really ring positive bells in many a folks ears. Without going into unnecessary depth these are;

  1. unity and alignment
  2. player experience
  3. supporter experience
  4. revenue up, cost down
  5. our people
  6. beyond rugby.

Now support and it’s numbers within Wales is a very hot topic and to see that the WRU plans to work on this at all levels is good. Not only so that clubs/regions get extra income, but that stakeholders can all show that all parties in Wales are well supported, for the majority. Even Team Wales itself.


Financially Welsh rugby and the WRU is doing well. The WRU turned over £73.3m in the year ending 2016, boosted by a IRB grant of £4.7m. Not only have the union turned over more money, but they have also reduced the bank debt with Barclays to £11m. The key part of the extra turnover is that Martyn Phillips has pledged to put all earnings back into Welsh rugby, and indeed he has with investment up at all levels of the game to £33.1m. All good to help develop every stage of the developmental pyramid.

The breakdown of this funding system, in basic format  is that the semi-professional and amateur games investment is up to £5,9m. Great for a stage of development where your helping players both academy and otherwise develop their skill sets, as well as become a community face. It is important to note that the money earned by the WRU, all goes back into the game and after tax, they only made a £100,000 profit on this part of the game.

Elite rugby has not seen any increase in direct funding and has stayed at £4.3m. Partially because of the RSA will dictate long term funding and how much is given.


Wales international home games saw a rise in ticket sales, with the average attendance of the five home games reach 69,000, a rise of four percent on the previous year. Maybe this is due to the cost of an average ticket being £39, down from £45 in 2015. However some of the recent England tickets for the next Six Nations home game have gone on the market for £100, causing lots of controversy amongst Welsh fans.

Up, perhaps due to extra activity on game days, and Rugby World Cup (RWC) matches held at the Principality Stadium, is the business and admin costs. these have risen to £7.1m and will largely relate to the eight  RWC games held in the stadium. Costs down and income up has been a major part of the philosophy of the WRU since Phillips’ inception as CEO, and some costs have gone down. Stadium costs have dropped to £5.3m despite a £500,000 investment in a new till system within the stadium. It must be noted that a £200,000 grant was given to the WRU to helps cover this, rather expensive till system.

With the extra matches held during the RWC, costs and income are expected to be higher and so as a result of this, hospitality and catering income shot up to £11.4m, although with a non-RWC year ahead, expect these figures to dip back down to around £8-9m of the previous year. Costs came in at around half of this figure (£6m).

The odd part of the costs is the exclusion of NDC (National Dual Contract) players from the staff costs breakdown. Make of that what you will.


The WRU always like to look back on the year and collate features that they think they have done well on and finance wise, they have done well this year. This was the first time since 2008 (a grand slam winning year) that the WRU sold-out every single home Six Nations gate. This was on top of the successful delivery of eight RWC hosted games. They also believe that there is a closer relationship between the clubs and regions.

Although perhaps it should be the regional and national relationship, they should be working hardest on after the ‘player release fiasco’ ahead of the Welsh Pro12 derby games.

Sponsor Dove Men Care is one of Wales Rugby's strongest partners
Sponsor ‘Dove Men Care’ is one of Wales Rugby’s strongest partners – image courtesy of Dove.

There have also been deals with eight new, or existing sponsors. These include Principality, Guinness, Dove for Men and Vitality. Those avenues helping secure future funding via marketing and product endorsement, that boosted commercial income to £12.3m. Brand WRU is a highly-valued commodity, and success on the field will surely improve that.


The new WRU head of rugby participation [Ryan Jones] gave his thoughts on his yearly finding’s and Jones is now in charge of the game below the Premiership and developing its strategy. This term he has really done a good job, utilizing well the WRU resources which have helped over 4000 coaches pass through the unions level one course (since it bagan). Something which we needed in Wales, with a shortage of good coaches.

600 referee’s attended those level one referee courses over the last year, taking the number of qualified ref’s in Wales to over 3000. That focus may produce more top level ref’s from this country. They can follow on in the footsteps of Derek Bevan and Nigel Owens, to take charge at the highest level and reach the highest recognized standards.


The head of Wales Rugby performance [Geraint John] has really settled in well to the role, and after Last Word On Rugby spoke with him personally at the Principality Premiership launch, he does have a good vision on where the game is going.

John has set out six clear rugby performance strategy points, which in brief are:

  1. coach development
  2. player development
  3. national age grade development
  4. national sevens development
  5. women’s game development
  6. creating more elite referees.

He also set out some aims ahead for the next year. Some you would have to feel are very ambitious, but most are very realistic. The men’s game aims for a top four ranking while the women go for top eight [by the 2017 WRWC].

Geraint also wants better support in place for national, regional and Premiership coaches. Whilst creating a better alignment between national, regional and national age grade coaching teams, which is Vital–especially in the light of the Welsh squad players not being released, bar from four. Clubs and their representatives must be available, with improved communication key to this.


This last year had been a decent year for Welsh rugby, with a positive look ahead at what the system holds in store under the ‘Martyn Phillips regime’.  Financially the game is on a stable surface, with the debt decreasing to the bank every year–governance and book-keeping are now strong points.

Primarily, game development is on the up at all levels and for once there seems to be a viable positive plan for what the WRU can achieve. The next 12 months should be very interesting, to say the least.

Main Photo


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