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USA Rugby Finances Strengthening - Melville

Wednesday Sep 16, 2009 in Off the Field USA Rugby

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USA Rugby’s financial problems are not as bad as some would have us believe, said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville Wednesday.

In an interview with ERugbyNews, Melville said that cost-cutting along with expected cash influxes will allow the organization to fulfill an increased budget for 2010, and actually sock away a reserve from 2009.

Among the developments Melville outlined:

1. In the midst of a global financial slowdown, USA Rugby cut budgets across the board, and also let go some employees and didn’t fill other vacated positions, thus cutting costs.

2. USA Rugby’s 2009 budget did not include unknown income. For example, the National Guard sponsorship deal ends at the end of September, and USA Rugby is still working toward getting it renewed. The 2009 budget included income from the National Guard deal as is, but it included no potential income past October 1, because a renewed deal was not guaranteed.
Similarly, the USA Rugby budget planned for a small increase in membership in mid-2009 and also with the new 2009-2010 membership cycle, meaning any extra growth was a windfall. That is, said Melville, what appears to be happening. More members than budgeted for means more income.

3. Offices and organizations within USA Rugby, such as the national teams, stayed within budget.

These all contributed to USA Rugby being in a better financial situation than they were in 2008. Melville said USA Rugby was in the red in 2008, and will be in the black for 2009.

Looking ahead there are plans to bring in more money and spend it, as well.

A temporary kit provider is being lined up for the men’s national team World Cup qualifiers and November 28 test with Fiji. That kit provider will also outfit the USA 7s team in Dubai and George, South Africa.

After that, Melville said he is working with two large potential sponsors, which he describes as “[National] Guard level.” The National Guard sponsorship deal is over $2 million and is still under negotiations to be renewed.

One of those sponsors will be a national team-specific kit sponsor, and the other will have a broader scope.

“We are working on smaller sponsorships, too,” said Melville. “But we have to be exceedingly patient. Obviously it’s with sponsorship that we can make the biggest steps in increasing income. The IRB grants we get are what we get, while membership is growing, but isn’t going to increase by a big jump either.”

Melville did say there is “no problem with any of the Eagles funding for the rest of the year.”

(This balances out with ERN’s previous article about the USA 7s team. USA Rugby is still in negotiations to professionalize the 7s program. If that happens, then the 7s Eagles will be able to play two warmup tournaments. If not, USA Rugby has not budgeted for those tournaments.)

He also added that he is “extremely optimistic” that the National Guard will renew sponsorship of USA Rugby for another year.

Looking forward USA Rugby has some hiring to do. They will bring in an events coordinator as well as someone to head a new college rugby department.

Also on the horizon of course is a Women’s World Cup, another full IRB Sevens World Series, and further work with the men’s Eagles.

- Alex Goff

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