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As predicted, last Saturday's Test match between Wales and South Africa in RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, underperformed expectations, resulting in a significant financial loss for Rugby International Marketing (RIM). The stadium seats 45,000 with a pre game breakeven estimated at 27,000. The official attendance number was 21,357, generating a substantial revenue shortfall.(Wales won 22-20.)
RIM guaranteed the two national sides £550,000 ($737,000) each. Without funds to meet the guarantee, World Rugby stepped in to loan USA Rugby (RIM's majority shareholder) the monies in anticipation that the World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July will produce profit for host USA Rugby to repay the emergency loan.
The Wales-Boks' match followed the downward commercial spiral of RIM, an entity created with minority shareholders from England's Rugby Football Union and the famous London-based Harlequins RFC.
Weeks earlier, FLO Sports bought the Rugby Channel from RIM to add to its sports streaming business. In net, RIM lost more than $4 million since its ill-timed conception. It was not a rugby business idea whose time had come.
The international reaction to the Wales v. South Africa match drew derision from the world's rugby press and also from players. Neither XV played a contingent of first-team players, the Boks started seven new caps.
- Gwyn Jones, former Wales captain, "a shambles...devaluated international rugby."
- Daily Telegraph - "A money making US stunt."
- BBC Sport - "The Washington Post did not write a column promoting the match."
- "A financial catastrophe."
Match Outcome Take-aways:
- As often stated, 20,000 attendees plus or minus ten-percent are what an international Test match in the USA will attract except if one team is the All Blacks;
- USA Rugby should not be involved in any commercial businesses; and,
- World Rugby will request concessions from USA Rugby if the latter is unable to repay back the recent bailout loan in part or in full.