The International Rugby Board (IRB) has insisted that New Zealand’s staging of the 2011 Rugby World Cup exceeded expectations, after revealing encouraging initial financial results for the competition.


Tournament owners Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) on Thursday said New Zealand 2011 is on track to achieve a net surplus of more than £90 million, £10 million more than previous estimates, making it the second highest revenue-earning event in the history of the tournament. Gross commercial revenues of £142 million were within 3% of the total achieved for the record-breaking France 2007 event. The IRB believes the figures are a major achievement for the tournament, which took place amidst the global economic downturn in a smaller domestic marketplace and in a non-European timezone.

“These excellent results represent a strong endorsement of the Rugby World Cup brand and rugby brands generally in the global commercial marketplace,” said RWCL chairman Bernard Lapasset. “The game is currently in excellent health, we now have 5.5 million men, women and children playing in more countries than ever before and there is no doubt that the success of Rugby World Cup has been a major contributing factor to this growth.”

The 2011 World Cup was the largest event ever hosted in New Zealand. More than 1.35 million fans took their seats at 48 matches with revenue from ticket sales surpassing the NZ$268.5 million (US$218 million) target set by tournament organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011. This equated to more than 10 times the gross revenue generated by the next biggest sporting event hosted by New Zealand, the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour. In addition, more than 133,000 fans travelled to New Zealand from overseas, nearly double original forecasts. The tournament is estimated to have boosted economic activity in New Zealand by more than NZ$500 million.

“The financial results also reflect the significant commitment and support of the tournament by our Unions and are a strong endorsement of our long-term hosting strategy,” said Lapasset. “The awarding of Rugby World Cup 2015 to England and Rugby World Cup 2019 to Japan at the same time has provided certainty for our commercial partners and broadcasters and has ultimately enabled the IRB to take a 10-year strategic view to global investment to ensure that our Tier 1 base is strong while maintaining our investment in Tier 2 and 3 and developing rugby markets.”

He added: “This is particularly encouraging given that Rugby World Cup 2007 was hosted at the height of the global economic boom, while Rugby World Cup 2011 was hosted amidst an uncertain economic climate in a smaller domestic marketplace and in a non-European time zone.” The full IRB group results for 2011 will be announced in May following the completion of the reporting process to the IRB Council.