A huge thanks to those that have sent their questions in for the first ever Rugby Blindside Mailbag, September edition. We received a range of questions on different topics so let’s get stuck in…
What is the financial impact on Premiership Rugby clubs this coming season now there are 13 clubs instead of 12? – Owen R
Great question, Owen. From our research we can’t see any change to the existing TV deal with BT Sport and Premiership Rugby. So, we must assume that the £110m deal (£36.6m per season) which is set to run out in 2024 is now going to be split 13 ways instead of 12. This will have a slightly negative impact on clubs but the two additional match-days might go some way to counter balance any income lost.
We also can’t hide from the fact that the 13th club this season is Saracens. A well-established rugby club in English domestic rugby and huge financial force in the league which will certainly have a positive impact. If we look further down the line too, next season we will be looking at a 14-team Premiership. The 14th club will most certainly be a club that is unfamiliar with top flight domestic rugby. This is exciting because it brings an entirely new fan base into the league which again should surely have a positive impact financially.
Thoughts on the impressive amount of season cards Bristol Bears sold for the 2021/22 campaign? – Chris S
Listen, there is some very special happening in Bristol. To reach 10,000 season cards sold is a massive achievement for Bristol Bears. With their previous record being 9,000 season cards sold we can’t help but congratulate them. Also, considering the club only returned to the Premiership for the 2018/19 season having spent 8 of the previous 9 seasons in the Championship, it’s a remarkable achievement.
Pre-pandemic in the 2019/20 season Bristol Bears sat 3rd in the attendance table averaging 17,900 per game. This shows that they already have a big following and can compete in these regards to the well-established Premiership clubs. Hitting the milestone of 10,000 season cards sold for the 2021/22 season is a big step in moving the club forward. They, like all clubs, will be very happy to welcome fans back this season.
What do you think rugby can learn from the business side of football? – James W
I don’t really like the comparison between rugby and football. Mainly because you’re not comparing apples with apples. The sports are in completely different stages of the journey – rugby compared to football is still an infant finding its feet.
I think the way rugby is governed with a wage cap and stricter financial restrictions has hampered its development but it is also a much more sustainable model than football. In terms of finances and fan bases, Premiership rugby clubs are comparable with top League one / lower Championship clubs in football. There are sadly too many football clubs at this level that are struggling and are teetering on the edge of the financial cliff. So, I’m happy there are rules in place to help stop the blind ambition and overspending you see at football clubs.
Where football can educate rugby is the marketing/broadcasting side of things. Hats off to Sky Sports and how they package and broadcast the Premier League. They have created a narrative that is addictive to many football fans up and down the country and its something rugby can learn from. It’s sad to see rugby with no highlights programme on terrestrial TV for this season – I think that’s a backwards step for rugby and risks losing new potential audiences.
Can you see streaming sites making more inroads into the rugby broadcasting world? – Alex B
Yes, is the simple answer, and in my opinion it’s a good thing. The more broadcast partners you have the bigger your potential audience is and the wider net you can throw on trying to catch new regular spectators.
I really like Amazon Prime Video having the UK broadcast rights to the Autumn International series. Having this series of games on a new and modern platform gives the game the opportunity to attract a younger generation of fans. This is supported by the fact that Amazon Prime Video is a growing platform too, in the past 5 years they have gain about 9million new subscribers. Hopefully rugby can ride the wave and grow as the streaming platform grows.
If have any questions you want answered or interested in hearing the opinion of our Editor on a certain topic please submit your questions for the next Rugby Blindside mailbag here.