Fallout from Eddie Jones exit contributes to RFU costs rising by £4.7m

<span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

The Rugby Football Union’s decision to sack Eddie Jones and replace him with Steve Borthwick contributed to increased England costs of nearly £5m, according to the organisation’s annual report for the year ending June 2023.

Jones was sacked in December 2022 after a disappointing autumn campaign, with Borthwick taking over later that month. The RFU chose not to put Jones on gardening leave or insert a noncompete clause in his contract but, according to the annual report, he was awarded “a contractually pre-agreed termination payment”.

The report lists £900,000 in staff restructuring costs, the single biggest contributor to which is believed to be Jones’s severance package.

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The restructuring costs are not thought to include the compensation paid to Leicester to secure the release of Borthwick as well as Kevin Sinfield as defence coach last year, which is believed to be around £1m.

The RFU’s report attributed an increase in investment of £4.7m into England men’s and women’s teams, in part, to changing the England men’s coaching team, as well as those associated with the Women’s World Cup, the 2022 autumn campaign and the fact Borthwick’s first World Cup training camp took place in June.

The report also shows that the under-fire chief executive, Bill Sweeney, was given a pay rise to £684,000. Sweeney had to face down a rebellion during the recent World Cup from 30 RFU council members who had signed a resolution challenging his leadership and raising fears over the union’s financial position. It was the latest in a string of setbacks in the past 12 months including the demises of Wasps, Worcester, London Irish and Jersey Reds, the shambolic handling of the tackle height rule changes and the refusal of the council to allow him to appoint an independent adviser to oversee governance reforms.

The RFU has also reported a loss to reserves of £6.3m for the year ending June 2023 despite revenues of £221.4m. The union’s chief financial officer, Sue Day, outlines that a profit of £10m would ordinarily be expected at this stage of a World Cup cycle and warns “we are currently forecasting a c.£5m ongoing deficit in our underlying profit/loss to reserves position”.

“Given our strong cash position, we can cope with this in the short term to safeguard levels of rugby investment, but it is unsustainable in the long term,” writes Day. “This is a focus for the year ahead as we work with other key organisations in the system to redress the deficit at an RFU level and across the entire ecosystem of English rugby.”

The rise in revenue from £189.1m the previous year is largely down to the increase in ticket income for a bumper autumn programme and an additional home Six Nations match. The Women’s Six Nations match against France in April, which attracted a world record crowd for a women’s match of nearly 60,000, brought in about £1m in revenue.

“The ticket yield on women’s internationals is currently much lower than the men’s game but is a key area of focus for growing future revenues,” adds Day.