Johannesburg - Rugby is slowly but surely becoming a major
business - one that has the potential to pump billions into a country's economy
and these days attract large brand sponsorships.
The figures say it all: The World Cup rugby tournament in
New Zealand could mean up to $1.67bn (R12bn) for the global sports economy. New
Zealand itself expects a total cash injection of $1bn (R7.3bn) in the long run,
according to research by the Centre for the International Business of Sport
(CIBS) at Coventry University which was commissioned by MasterCard.
This is not bad, if one keeps in mind that the New Zealand
organisers are actually staging the tournament at a loss.
The host country pays all costs, including an amount to the
International Rugby Board (IRB) for the right to present the tournament.
Income from sponsorships and broadcasting rights also go
straight into the IRB's coffers to finance and develop the game worldwide,
explains Mike Jaspers, communications manager of Rugby New Zealand, the entity
organising the tournament on New Zealand's behalf.
"We weigh the costs up against the long-term benefit.
This year we are presenting the sports event of the year and our country is
receiving worldwide exposure, which is something money can't buy," said
The MasterCard report clearly shows that rugby's sphere of
influence has considerably widened since the first World Cup rugby tournament
In 1987 300 million TV viewers saw 16 countries’ teams in
action. This year a global audience of four
billion (individual viewerships for the various events added together)
is expected, with 20 teams competing. Interest in rugby has increased,
particularly in Eastern Europe.
"The game is currently enjoying fair growth, which could
increase throughout the World Cup rugby tournament, which sparks interest from
countries like China, the US and even Kazakhstan," says CIBS director Professor
He attributes the new growth phase to a new generation of
administrative managers. "The game's administrators these days have highly
professional management skills and many of them have helped to manage the commercial
development of the game."
Add to this the professional status of the players, and
rugby is quickly becoming a big global business.
No wonder that leading sponsors such as the Emirates
airline, Heineken, MasterCard and DHL support the tournament.
"The tournament is rugby's crown jewel and we grab the
chance to build business opportunities," said Stuart Cameron, MasterCard's vice
president for sponsorships in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
He notes that the typical rugby tourist is male, from the
middle-income group and between 20 and 50 years of age. He spends money on
accommodation, food and drink and memorabilia and can therefore give the local
economy a considerable boost.
It's this legacy from its 95 000 expected visitors that New
Zealand will exploit to its advantage until the sport-related economic activities
deliver a projected $11.7bn (R85bn) by the end of the decade. Not bad for an
initial loss or input cost of about R203m.
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