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The Rugby Channel, the only year-round business of Rugby International Marketing, has lost $4.2 million to date, according to minutes from USA Rugby’s Feb. 9-11 Congress meeting in Dallas, Texas. The minutes detail an array of discussion topics, but none more pressing or compelling than USA Rugby’s subsidiaries, RIM and TRC.
“The USA Rugby Congress has grave concerns about the operations of RIM and its future viability,” read a resolution passed by Congress at the assembly. “As Congress, we request the USA Rugby Board provide Congress with a detailed plan to (a) immediately undertake a fiscal risk analysis of RIM and create a plan to correct the deficits if needed, and (b) provide a business plan outlining a clear path to future commercial sustainability and viability over the next 5-10 years.
“This two-step plan should be undertaken by a collective group of third party experts in the field and should include an analysis, of the practice and future of RIM. The first objective should however to be completed no later than April 30 2018, with the second objective to be completed by the next Board Meeting on June 9.”
Not in the resolution, but included in a memo attached to the minutes, was this statement as well:
“Most of the Congress’s effort at this meeting was directed at addressing the problems widely perceived with the operation and practices of RIM. This resolution asks for clear and immediate action to be taken to ensure that the future of USA Rugby, as represented by the income, or usually losses, generated by RIM.
“While RIM has not used any USA Rugby funds to operate its business, its business practices are endangering the payments owed to USA Rugby. In addition, RIM’s failure to maximize their business model makes their long-term viability tenuous.”
The minutes also note that RIM has put an end-date on its current cash burn, March 31, meaning The Rugby Channel won’t be allowed to continue to lose money past that date. The resolution will be sale, shut down or partnership, as detailed in the minutes. As previously reported, RIM has met with multiple potential buyers and investors who have walked away. Over the weekend, FloRugby met with RIM and TRC leaders in Las Vegas to discuss acquisition.
In the same discussion, concerns were voiced about the upcoming match between Wales and South Africa, a RIM production. While the figures are neither public nor confirmed, it’s believed a cash guarantee has been made to both Wales and South Africa in the neighborhood of $750,000 each, with a break-even attendance hovering near 27,000.
There was also an acknowledgment within the RIM discussion that there are issues regarding the status of sponsors and whether the current budget will be met. USA Rugby Board member Rob King reported that will be known by mid-March.
So the timeline is this – by the end of March, The Rugby Channel is to stop losing money, regardless of what that means. The potential outcomes are believed to be shut down, sale or partnership. Congress has demanded an outside fiscal risk analysis of RIM as a whole be completed by the end of April and for RIM to produce a 5-10 year business plan by June 9th. By Mid-March, we'll know if we're going to be able to hit budget for 2018.
These dates and deadlines signal Congress is serious about RIM and its impact on USA Rugby. RIM will operate through the Rugby World Cup Sevens regardless of how each of these deadlines come to pass, but the course has been chartered for a potential RIM shutdown thereafter. Congress alone cannot force RIM to shut down, but pressure from USA Rugby's only truly representative body is significant.