The broadcast deal crippling Sydney Club Rugby

By Sam Ryan

The Sydney Rugby Union and the Shute Shield clubs have done an incredible job over the past few years to revive our competition.

Fans, new and old, have flocked to grounds around Sydney to watch quality rugby played for all the right reasons and our competitions have never been tighter.

Unfortunately though, after a third straight record breaking season, the Sydney Rugby Union, the Shute Shield clubs and the Sydney grassroots rugby community have next to nothing to show for it.

The SRU is run by hard working volunteers and their job is to administer Sydney club rugby.

The major opportunity they get each year to generate revenue to fund their competitions is from the gate takings at finals matches.

So you’d think the SRU and the Shute Shield clubs would be swimming in cash, considering the record crowds we’ve seen in recent years?

You’d think there’d be plenty of money to pay for extra development officers and to fund programs in schools to help secure the future of our game.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Almost every cent the SRU earns from the finals series each year ends up getting paid to the broadcasters of the competition.

Since 2015, the SRU has had to pay the broadcasters – a private production company who negotiated to have matches broadcast on 7TWO – several hundred thousand dollars a year.

On top of that, the broadcasters also take every bit of revenue they generate from sponsorship.

If you look around the field today, you’ll see the logos of a wide range of high end corporate partners.

Watch the telecast and a different company is plugged in every second sentence.

But the SRU, the clubs and the players that create the fantastic product that we’ll watch today don’t directly receive a cent from any of this and the SRU is then forced to pay a small fortune on top of that each year to avoid breaching a contract.

We thank all the commercial partners for their support of the Shute Shield, but I wonder if they actually realise where their money is going?

Because at the end of another brilliant year of Shute Shield rugby, the SRU, the clubs and the grassroots community are no better off financially and soon they’ll have to hand over another couple hundred thousand dollars again.

And in my opinion, that’s just wrong.

Read: Brett Papworth: What Rugby Australia could learn from the Shute Shield clubs