As one Premiership rugby club teeters on the brink of going under and another considers administration, Saracens’ chief executive Lucy Wray has admitted that English rugby’s finances are broken.
But Wray has faith in Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union to make the changes needed to ensure no more clubs face the same threats to their future as Worcester Warriors and Wasps.
“You can tell that the financial model of rugby doesn’t work and clubs are losing far too much money,” Wray told City A.M. at a launch event for Saracens’ new stand.
“There’s obviously an opportunity to make some changes for the good and I think PRL and RFU [Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union] are looking at how they can take the game forward and protect the club game.
“These conversations are happening and the collaboration with Simon Massie-Taylor [Premiership Rugby chief] coming onto the board is better than it’s ever been.”
Worcester Warriors must meet a Monday deadline to prove they have a plan to last the season or face suspension, while Wasps confirmed this week that they have been in talks over appointing administrators.
“I think they [Premiership Rugby and the RFU] know their obligation to take the game somewhere. Everyone loves the game, everyone’s got the heart for what they’re doing,” Wray added.
“From a Saracens perspective, we really took the view of ‘right, how do we control our own destiny?’.
“We’re not reliant on the magic wand that [private equity firm and Premiership part-owner] CVC might wave, or that a broadcaster will offer three times what they are now.”
The plights of Worcester and Wasps stand as stark reminders of the financial instability of club rugby, and how having a multitude of revenue streams is of paramount importance.
Behind the two troubled clubs are teams of staff facing uncertain futures, with some working for free to ensure matches go ahead. The situation is unsustainable.
Saracens are on a far sounder footing, with strong commercial revenue now bolstered by a new stand and the £13,000-a-head W Club, a premium hospitality offering which opens for the first time when Gloucester visit the StoneX Stadium on Saturday.
“We feel that actually we’re almost taking control back and, hopefully when PRL and the RFU do get it right, and I believe they will, we’ve got to have a long-term view,” Wray said.
“I still believe that the game is massively exciting for the future, there’s something about rugby that’s just so special.
“And though not many people in the wider population come to club rugby, once they do they understand it.
“Whether it’s a bit of naivety or glass half-full, I’m really excited. But with everything that’s going on, which is desperately sad because you think of the people – the fans, community, players and staff, who absolutely love their club – you’ve always got to try and look for the opportunity to come out of it.”