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The creation of Rugby International Marketing became public at the tail end of 2014 – USA Rugby was forming a for-profit subsidiary for which it could sell equity to outside investors and pursue commercial opportunities more aggressively. Nearly two years later, it’s time to check in on the fledgling company.
In 2015, the first chunk of equity was sold to the Rugby Football Union, USA Rugby’s English counterpart. The amount of equity and its cost haven’t been publicly disclosed, but rumor has them at 10-percent for $1.5 million. One of the key players in that deal was Sophie Goldschmidt, then the chief commercial officer for the RFU. She filled the RFU’s initial seat on the RIM board until leaving the RFU roughly five months later.
Goldschmidt’s landing spot was Chime Sports Management, CSM, which became RIM’s second investor last month. CSM is now USA Rugby’s exclusive commercial sales agent, and Goldschmidt is CSM’s group managing director. CSM’s investment amount and equity stake isn’t public knowledge, but word is it isn’t far off the RFU’s deal.
A third investor, whose identity is still unknown, is on the hook, too, leaving USA Rugby with 75-percent ownership over RIM. To warrant its majority stake, USA Rugby didn’t invest any money, but rather allocated its biggest commercial assets to RIM – sponsorship sales, test matches and events, licensing, etc. The national governing body used to manage these on their own, and now its banking on RIM’s ability to manage them better and create greater revenue.
The chief concern for many RIM critics has been how USA Rugby would be able to reap the benefits of increased revenue if it were to come to fruition. Recently, USA Rugby made the initial terms public on its website. Through 2019, RIM will pay an annual licensing fee to USA Rugby. In 2016 RIM will pay $1,016,121 to USA Rugby. 2017 – $1,251,121, 2018 – $1,801,121, and 2019 – $1,077,301.
How does that compare to what USA Rugby did on its own with the properties it’s allocated to RIM? According to the 2014 financial statement, USA Rugby netted $249,129 in events (this was the year of the sold out USA vs. New Zealand test match), $2,200,203 in corporate sponsorships, and $239,575 in licensing fees. All of these are assets which now fall under RIM’s scope of operations, according to USA Rugby’s website.
Together, they add up to more than $2.6 million in revenue for 2014. 2013’s total using the same line items resulted in a net of just more than $2.3 million. The financials for 2015 are not available, but using 2013 and 2014 as a guide, USA Rugby stands to rake in significantly less money through the events, sponsorship and licensing channels from 2016-2019 via RIM’s licensing fee than it did on its own.
While the idea is for RIM to produce profits well above and beyond the licensing fee, on USA Rugby’s website it states, “RIM is committed to distributing excess capital to its shareholders, at which point significant positive cash flow is realized. Current plans envision sustainable positive cash flow beginning in 2018.” So we’re about two years away from when RIM thinks it’s going to be able to start paying back its investors and sending excess money to USA Rugby’s coffers.
Where are the revenue streams for RIM? Currently, the only year-round business is TheRugbyChannel.tv, which has struggled to provide unique, compelling content. Currently, you can find Guinness Pro 12 games live and archived, as well as a weekly highlight show produced by The Rugby Channel, a weekly highlight of New Zealand club rugby, World Rugby’s weekly show, and a smorgasbord of archived matches. The channel’s ace in the hole is the 2017 Six Nations, which should lend a significant bump in subscriptions. However, the Six Nations agreement is believed to be a one-off.
Upcoming in November is a pair of tests in Chicago, as the USA hosts the Maori All Blacks at Toyota Park and Ireland and the All Blacks square off the following day at Soldier Field. RIM undoubtedly has its finger in that pie, as it will with domestic tests going forward. And of course the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens to be hosted in San Francisco is expected to be a major event, and its coming to America was presumably part of the impetus for the creation of RIM.
The reality is, to this point, RIM has proven its ability to raise money, but it still needs to prove it’s going to be able to actually make any on its own. Even then, there’s a gap between turning a profit and turning one large enough to put USA Rugby in a better financial situation than it was without the for-profit arm.