Bill Sweeney, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, received a £16,000 pay rise for the 2022-23 financial year – a season in which three Premiership clubs went to the wall and the governing body faced a revolt over the community game’s tackle height.
In the annual report published on Friday, the RFU announced that Sweeney’s salary increased from £668,000 in the 2021-22 financial year to £684,000 in the last, representing a double-digit increase. Chairman Tom Ilube’s remuneration as a non-executive director also increased, by £7,000 – from £73,000 to £80,000 – while chief financial officer Sue Day’s salary augmented by £18,000 from £491,000 to £509,000. However, the overall wage bill of the RFU;s executive officers was reduced by £126,000.
After taking into account “taxation and adjusting for minority reserves”, the RFU announced a £6.3 million loss for the last financial year, compared to a £95 million profit in the prior year. Operating profit was £4 million, a drop from £15 million in 2021-22. These figures are affected by the investment of CVC in the Six Nations, which provided £88.5 million for the RFU last year but which resulted in a £3.4 million loss in 2022-23. The profit-and-loss cash reserves of the union are at £123.3 million.
On the CVC investment, the RFU wrote in its report: “The board agreed that [the proceeds of the CVC investment] were not to be spent on operating expenses and, as was set out in the 2022 annual report, the board established a ‘Strategic Growth Fund’ which is used among other things to invest in the rugby’s future, including revenue generating projects.”
The report added that all of the RFU’s Covid debt has been paid off and that the revenue from ticket sales has increased from £33.7 million to £48.4 million. The world-record crowd that watched the Red Roses’ Six Nations match against France in April at Twickenham contributed £1 million of that increased revenue.
In a statement, Sweeney said: “Wasps, Worcester, and London Irish going into administration was the single most defining aspect of the men’s professional game last season. The after-effects of Covid, levels of debt, and the economic environment brutally exposing difficulties for business models with existing challenges.
“In a very difficult financial environment, the RFU achieved an operating profit of £4 million due to robust financial management. The coming years will continue to be challenging with inflationary pressure on our costs, our revenues being under pressure from reduced discretionary spend, and the recovery of corporate confidence. We will continue to implement strong cost control and prudent fiscal management.”
An RFU spokesperson added: “The CEO’s remuneration increased by two per cent, which is lower than staff salary increases. All members of the RFU executive team took a salary cut during the pandemic and a reduced bonus. Exec salaries are in line with external benchmarking, this was conducted in 21 and 23 and when comparing similar positions among FTSE 250 and FTSE Small cap – the most comparable in terms of the market size all exec salaries are either at the mid or lower quartile range. Most roles are paid more than they were in 2016, the CEO remuneration is less (that’s before considering inflation). In the 2016 Annual Report Ian Ritchie received £749 v Bill at £684.”