NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore explains rationale behind new additional $12 player levy

NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore believes the sport can bounce back after a dismal 2017 season but said the introduction of an additional $12 state enforced player levy on all registered players in 2018 is essential for the short and long term future of the code in New South Wales.

Hore has spent the past month travelling around the various affiliate Boards and respective AGMs to speak to clubs and associations and explain the reasons for the new levy, which will be introduced alongside a significant reduction in expenditure across the entire organisation.

“In 2017, we effectively had the perfect storm. Last year (2016) we carried a loss of roughly $150K for NSW Rugby into 2017, we then had a reduction of around $500k in funding from the ARU and we had all the negative sentiment around Australian rugby and Super Rugby,” the CEO said.

“On top of that, we had poor weather early in the year, even before we were performing badly and that affected our gate and then we had the poor performance of the Waratahs on the field.

“If you look at all of that, the only thing we can really control is the Waratahs performance. With this current model, you’re always going to have ups and downs. It’s boom or bust almost, so we needed to do something to protect the largest part of the game, which is community rugby.”

NSW are the only state or territory (besides Northern Territory) that don’t already impose a state based player levy and while Hore said he understood the negative sentiment surrounding the game after what has been a difficult season on all fronts, he said it was crucial that the professional and community factions of the sport stick together in the years to come as both are relying on one another.

“One thing I can assure people is that money from the community game is not funding the professional game, if anything it’s the other way around. It’s been a poor couple of years and we’ve taken steps to fix that. We’ve started to make the changes that our people want, but again that takes time and money. Everyone has taken a hit and the only way we can solve these issues is if we all approach it together.

“The professional game has been pumping $1.16 million a year into the community game for the last six years, $1.65 million in the year the Waratahs won. Yes, certain Super Rugby franchises have burnt money, but in QLD and NSW, it’s the other way around.

“We need people to remember that by supporting the Waratahs, you are supporting rugby in NSW because the Waratahs are the only entity we have that generates income back into the game.”

Since joining NSW Rugby in April last year, Hore has worked to merge NSW Rugby and Waratahs Rugby into one organisation and has enforced a series of cost cutting measures in recent months.

“We’ve looked for what we’re calling ‘a whole of game approach’. The Waratahs took about a $350k hit to their rugby budget. We then moved out of Moore Park and that saved us another approximately $350k a year. We’ve reduced our administration costs by around $100k and then the player levy will generate another $350k,” he said.

“Our balance sheet is okay because we have some cash paid in advance, but what we don’t want to do is what regimes have done in the past, where they eat in to those reserves and then we’re potentially in real trouble. The timing of when that money is introduced is very important to get right.”

Hore is in the process of appointing a foundation and community initiatives manager to raise funds for community projects and a full time government relations officer, who will lobby state, local and federal governments for further funding, something he admits NSW Rugby have done poorly in the past. He hopes these initiatives will assist in protecting the community game from the ups and downs of professional rugby in the current environment.

Despite that, the New Zealand born administrator admitted it will most likely take some time to win back the hearts and minds of the wider NSW rugby community.

“We really can’t afford to let the financial situation in Australian rugby get any worse or we’ll end up with what happened in football, where the government came in to run the game when they had financial issues, now they’re forced to charge ridiculously high registration fees,” he said.

“The reality is, in rugby the professional game is still subsidising the community game. If the professional game goes broke, that won’t occur anymore and like soccer, registration fees will go through the roof.

“I think it’s really important that we get this point across. We can’t fracture now because if we do, we’re shot. We have to unify and I’m quite comfortable, as I have been, to go around and speak to every board and at every affiliate AGM and lay it on the table. There’s no bullshit, I’m just here to tell it as it is and make sure that we don’t go under so that we can keep subsidising all the things that are essential to our game.”

Hore said he still didn’t know if Australia’s four remaining Super Rugby franchises will receive an increase in funding following the axing of the Western Force but said the player levy would be reviewed next July.

“I can can stand here and make promises until the cows come home but it’s going to take a few years until the community will trust anything that comes out of my mouth, because they’ve been let down so many times before. I can’t change people’s perception, but I can show what we’ve done so far and what we are in the process of doing,” he said.

“People can see we are changing because we’ve had events at Brooky (Brookvale Oval), Cronulla and Mudgee, we had the junior club blitz right around NSW and our players made a lot more appearances this year. People are seeing change, but they are just frustrated that it’s not coming fast enough.”