Welsh Rugby Union 2019 annual report review

Welsh Rugby Union
Pictured: WRU CEO Martyn Phillips addresses guests at an evening for debenture ticket holders held at St Davids Hall, Cardiff in January.

The end of another financial year means the release of the latest Welsh Rugby Union annual report. It can be a complicated set of figures, data and block text so, Robert Rees breaks it down into all ‘you need to know’ about the WRU books.

Gerald Davies elected new President

Following the stepping down of WRU President Dennis Gethin after a 13-year stint, former Lions and Welsh international won the votes of the clubs to become his successor.

Davies is sure to add a fresh mindset on how the WRU approach their duties and will be a fans favourite as a result of his 51 tests.

He fought off the highly respected opposition of Tommy David and Terry Cobner.

Welsh Rugby Union
New WRU President Gerald Davies, courtesy WRU.

Positive outlook despite a planned loss

The WRU expected a loss of circa £5m this year due to a narrow window for concerts due to World Cup warm-up matches and no autumn internationals.

The Welsh Rugby Union accounts reveal that turnover has decreased, as expected, to £90.5m (£97m:2018). £49.9m of that being surplus after costs.

Despite the loss re-investment into Welsh rugby has increased to £49.6m. An increase of nearly £7m – more on where this goes later.

As a result of a drop in income the loss for this year was £4.3m. Down from a £2.3m profit in 2018.

Team Wales going strong

On average home gates decreased to 66,000 (69,000:2018) with a total of 393,000 fans attending the six games across the financial year.

Despite a lower average crowd and one less game than 2018 ticket prices did rise by an average £3 which has helped plug the loss in the other areas.

Wales have a World Cup semi-final to contest this coming weekend and have hit world number one for the first ever time earlier this summer. This all following on from their Grand Slam success in this year’s Six Nations.

Some fresh faces have been capped along the way and as Wales bids goodbye to Warren Gatland and co. Post-World Cup it’ll truly be an end to an era. There’s no doubt that Wayne Pivac will keep Wales as one of the pinnacles of World Rugby.


It’s not just the top tier of the game that is going well. The WRU has seen a record 38,000 mini and juniors registered on their database.

There are 18,000 girls now participating in rugby due to the rise of the clusters and the introduction of female hub officers. 3000 of these girls being part of one of the clusters.

There is now a 94% completion rate of youth rugby fixtures and with the Wales emerging women’s team defeating England in April there is a real aura of positivity in this area.

Community game growing

The Indigo Group Premiership will see relegation and promotion at the end of this season, much to the delight of its clubs, players and supporters.

Indigo have signed a new four-year deal to be the sponsors of the highest league in Wales below the professional tier.

Youth sides are now playing under the initiative ‘Youth Rugby Rising’ and are getting Friday night games to increase exposure.

Welsh rugby investment – the financial ‘breakdown’

  • Total investment into ‘Welsh rugby’ has increased to £49.6m.
  • Broken down, there was £33m allocated to the regions, although £7.6m of that was directly spent on running the Dragons. The £25.4m spent outside the Dragons was up by nearly £5m.
  • The Welsh Premiership funding remained at £1.7m and the community game stayed at £4.5m.
  • Net bank debt now lies at £9m.
  • Financial loss on the year was £4.3m.
  • The Westgate Hotel expenditure was £16.3m, of which they’ll hope to make back once it becomes operational. This is forecasted to open in 2021.

74% of the Welsh Rugby Union’s income comes from hosting international matches and the subsequent effects of Wales’ commercialisation.

Breakdown of the income

The Welsh Rugby Union’s income is broken down as:

  • Match income – £44.9m
  • Competition income* – £11.9m
  • Commercial income – £14.2m
  • Hospitality and catering – £14m
  • Other event income – £2.4m
  • Other income** – £3.1m

*Directly earned money from the PRO14 and European competitions.

** Sport Wales gave a grant of £900,000.

Staff numbers rise as highest paid director increases wage bill

There are now 358 members of staff at the Welsh Rugby Union. Up from 341 in 2018. This resulted in staff costs rising to £18.3m.

The highest paid director – unnamed – was paid £351,000.

These wage costs don’t include matchday stewards or non-executive directors.

Welsh Rugby Union
The WRU’s governance structure. Credit the WRU annual report.

New commercial activity

The Welsh Rugby Union have increased their commercial activity this year and struck some major deals.

  • Channel 4 won the bidding rights to televise the Under Armour series and Wales vs. Barbarians match.
  • Indigo Group signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Welsh Premiership.
  • Specsavers are the new sponsor of the Welsh community Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions.
  • BBC/S4C extended their rights in order to remain televising the Premiership and National Cup.
Indigo Group Welsh Premiership captain’s (Photo, credit @vivj33)

Positivity despite the loss

Despite the planned loss due to the World Cup limiting the use of the Principality Stadium or the Welsh national team there is plenty of positivity to talk about from the report.

Youth and girls/women’s rugby is massively on the up. Boosted by the hub officers and clusters participation is rising both in and out of school.

The community level of the game is seeing its funding levels ringfenced and the Championship into Premiership route is now becoming more streamlined.

The regions are helping produce top quality internationals whilst competing in varying qualities in both Europe and the PRO14.

Wales have won the Grand Slam and made the semi-final of the World Cup, with the possibility of a first final to come.

The Westgate Hotel plans could really boost the Welsh Rugby Union’s income, along with gigs from the likes of Rammstein being held in Cardiff.

There is a PRO14 final being held in Wales (Cardiff City Stadium) for the first ever time, which will help generate further interest and support for rugby in Wales.

The Community Rugby Board (CRB) has been set up, as has other positions in Welsh rugby in what is a look ahead to the future.


“Main photo credit”

Welsh Rugby Union
Pictured: WRU CEO Martyn Phillips addresses guests at an evening for debenture ticket holders held at St Davids Hall, Cardiff in January.



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