The Indigo Group Premiership may be months behind its usual starting point, but with plenty of time to look at off the field matters, Robert Rees has investigated into the playing budgets of each team.
Indigo Group Premiership playing budgets
The Welsh Premiership is a turbulent environment financially, with changes to the format and funding affecting the teams.
The WRU supplies the league with £1.1m of funding, shared out amongst the clubs.
Merthyr RFC became a modern force in Welsh club rugby when Sir Stan Thomas arrived on the scene following a documentary about Merthyr town’s poverty.
“I wanted to help the young people of Merthyr by getting them involved in sport. I want to leave a clubhouse and facilities for the future,” he said.
In 2017, according to company accounts, an investor – likely to be Stan Thomas – put £750,000 into the club, but Stan insists budget for players is nowhere near that.
“We make our money through match day ticket sales, bar takings and sponsors. Merthyr haven’t had a clubhouse now for around 12 months,” he says. “I’ve put forward £400,000 of the £800,000 needed to build the new clubhouse, but clubs are desperate for sponsors and people through the gates,” he adds.
Merthyr‘s new clubhouse has undertaken a lot of work since speaking to their backer.
— Merthyr RFC 🏉 (@RFCMerthyr) June 23, 2020
“Our weekly average is probably 150 people.
“The TV deal gives the clubs no money and with attendances down it averages around £3,000 less on that game. We had six home games last season, that’s £18,000 we’ve lost out on,” Stan adds.
“Our [playing] budget is likely more than most clubs,” he continues. Combining figures from various sources you can place this at around £400,000 plus.
Wage bills are being placed at around £100,000 for low end teams, to those tipping £400,000. The only teams tipping the £400k mark are said to be Merthyr and now possibly Cardiff, although the latter receive a lot of help in terms of players from the Cardiff Blues.
These budgets work down to around £200,000-£250,000 for Pontypridd, Newport and Aberavon with relegated teams such as Bedwas expected to be less than £130,000.
Carmarthen Quins didn’t comment on their budget, but latest accounts list staff costs at just shy of £112,000. This covers all staff employed by the club, but will largely be players, with most behind the scenes roles held by volunteers within the Premiership clubs.
The average turnover of a Premiership club is expected to be at least £200,000 with most pushing past £250,000 and most other clubs are thought to be operating on a playing budget between £100,000-£150,000.
Ebbw Vale finished eleventh in the Premiership last season having finished fifth last year.
Chairman Jon Jones oversaw the club make spending cuts to the playing squad last summer, but explains the hardship of dealing with off-field costs. “Most clubs spend around £6,000 plus on medical taping that the players go out in,” he says.
“We don’t pay for our doctor. You can pay between £200-£300 a game to have one on site and without one you can’t start the game,” Jon adds.
The medical costs are down to the WRU A license and fall between “£15,000-£25,000 per club,” explains Jon. This includes “scans on players, tape, physios, gases. A defibrillator battery costs you £500 and needs replacing every few years.
“Our medical bills are around £23,000 [a year],” Jon continues.
The WRU grant last season was £72,000, £18,000 down on 2018/19. It’ll decrease to £60k next season with a further £10k reduction the year after.
“We’ve had our core grant cut by a third in two years. Clubs were getting about £110,000 before that. We’ll have lost nearly 50% in three years. Ebbw Vale is in one of the most economically deprived areas in Europe, finding sponsorship for us is difficult,” he explains.
Every year new costs arise and Ebbw Vale fall lucky on the kit front.
“We get a set of 25 home and away jerseys free and then what we do is top that up with extra shirts for varying sized players. The kit company makes money by having a target of sales you need to hit, that could be to buy £12,000 in other stuff to get your free kit,” Jon explains.
Travelling to games can take anywhere between 20 minutes to four hours, depending on your opposition.
Despite players often travelling to games individually the costs of hiring buses throughout the season mounts up.
“Everyone has to go to RGC 1404 and that’s around a £2,500 bill. We don’t use that many buses, so we spend around £5,000 a season on transport.”
The A license also ensures that a certain level of coaching is acquired by the clubs.
“Most clubs will spend around £30,000 on coaches,” adds Jon.
“Having a grandstand and covered areas requires maintenance and insurance. Floodlights cost a couple of grand a season for maintenance, double that if you have a training pitch.”
Welsh Premiership clubs are finding it more difficult than ever to balance the books, but are exploring new ways each season to try and increase their revenue and avoid the drop. Being relegated to the Championship would see a grant of less than £10,000 for the clubs, a large decrease on what they’d work with in the top flight.
With larger crowd gatherings unlikely for some time, the Premiership clubs are exploring other options for earlier fixtures, but as of yet, talks with the WRU haven’t been fruitful.
Clubs will experience lower budgets in the years to come, partly due to lower grants and Covid restraints.
“Main photo credit”