Rugby finances: Ireland Six Nations triumph gives them best bang for buck while France and England fail to capitalise on revenues

Joe Hall
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England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations
Ireland have outperformed rugby-playing nations with greater financial resources (Source: Getty)

Grand Slam-winning Six Nations champions Ireland are the best performing rugby side in the world when compared with the financial resources at their disposal.

With the world’s best sides set to to resume battle with each other on summer tours this weekend, analysis by City A.M. reveals Ireland to be the most effective nation at turning their union’s revenue into wins.

Of the top eight ranked rugby unions in the world, No2 Ireland had the second-smallest revenue last year, ahead of only No5 Scotland. South Africa, Wales and France — ranked sixth, seventh and eighth respectively — have all recently announced stronger revenue figures than the €76.6m (£66.8m) generated by the Ireland Rugby Football Union (IRFU) last season.

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) comfortably remained the richest union in the world last year, despite revenue plummeting from the £407.1m generated in a home World Cup year to £184.9m in 2016-17 — although that was still over £40m more than any other rugby-playing nation.

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New Zealand Rugby — who have been ranked the No1 team in the world for nine years uninterrupted — were closest to England with revenues of $NZ257m (£142m) yet, like England last year, that strong performance was the result of a one-off factor – in this case, the British and Irish Lions tour of the country last summer.

Country Revenue rank Win % rank Overall performance
Ireland 6 3 +3
South Africa 7 4 +3
New Zealand 3 1 +2
Scotland 8 7 +1
Australia 5 6 -1
Wales 4 5 -1

Country Revenue rank Win % rank Overall performance
Ireland 6 3 +3
South Africa 7 4 +3
New Zealand 3 1 +2
Scotland 8 7 +1
Australia 5 6 -1
Wales 4 5 -1
England 1 2 -1
France 2 8 -6

Part of what makes England so far ahead of the pack are the revenues it generates from events at Twickenham, which the RFU fully owns. Despite being a relatively similar-sized rugby nation, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) struggles to keep up as it does not own its own ground for rugby.

The IRFU only owns half of its home venue, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, sharing control with the Irish Football Association.

Yet that fact hasn’t stopped the Ireland team from duking it out at the top of the World Rugby rankings.

Furthermore, a deeper analysis, taking into account financial results and win percentages over the last five years, underlines that Ireland have best outpaced their resources when measured against fellow Tier One nations.

Since the beginning of 2013, Ireland have won 32 of 51 games against Tier One nations, giving them a win percentage of 63 per cent — a rate bettered only by England’s 72 per cent and New Zealand’s 91 per cent.

Country Average revenue Wins Games Win %
England £222.1m 41 57 71.9%
France £82.3m 18 55 32.7%
New Zealand £80.3m 53 58 91.4%
Wales £68.2m 28 55 50.9%
Australia £67m 30 63 47.6%
Ireland £57.6m 32 51 62.7%
South Africa £55m 33 58 56.9%
Scotland £45.2m 20 50 40%

They have been the third best-performing side when measured against other big guns, yet have only had average revenues of £57.6m over the last five seasons — less than five of the top eight sides.

The only other nation to experience such a jump is South Africa – England’s opponents in a three-Test series that starts in Johannesburg on Saturday – who have been only the seventh-richest union but the fourth best performing side.

Ireland place ahead of them in our rankings, however, as their win rate is around 10 per cent higher while their revenue is superior by just five per cent.

France have struggled to convert healthy finances into consistent results (Source: Getty)

England languish near the bottom of the value rankings as their world-leading average revenue of £222m is three or four times that of most of their rivals, yet their results are only marginally better – and in some cases worse.

France are the biggest underachievers, however. Their pockets are generally deeper than New Zealand’s, with average revenue of £82.3m versus £80.3m, but their win percentage of 33 per cent is rock bottom against other Tier One nations.

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