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Penrith Panthers hold up the Telstra Premiership trophy.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has advised its members that the game will report a $43.1 million surplus for the 2021 season. This is after providing NRL member clubs with record distributions and returning additional monies to players.

The strong performance is a result of significant revenue growth across the entire business and effective cost management, building on the major business restructure undertaken at the end of 2020.

As a result of the financial performance, the Commission has provided additional grants to each of its club and state members. An additional $9 million in payments was paid in October 2021. It is important that the Commission provide security for Members, passing on our cost savings and revenue growth to Clubs who were facing financial ruin due to the pandemic.

Also, a further $5.5 million has been allocated to players, ensuring the majority of their 2021 pay reductions are returned. The Commission made this decision last December, even though no payment is required until after the 2022 season.

Key financial results include:

  • Revenue for 2021 increased by $155.4 million or 37% to $575.1 million on the previous year.
  • Cash grants to the 16 Clubs increased by 5% to $239.6 million. This was on top of the increase provided in 2020. The clubs before Covid (2019 financial year) received $203.2 million.
  • Cash reserves have increased from $126 million at the end of the 2020 financial year to $171 million at 31 October 2021.
  • From 2023 television broadcast agreements will exceed $400 million per annum being the most in the game’s history.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the game had come through the pandemic in a financially stronger position than before the pandemic. The financial performance was underpinned by our early and decisive decision to relocate games to Queensland in July 2021. A priority was placed on returning additional distributions to members and players.

“The Commission is proud to report that despite almost $30 million in covid costs, the game will report a strong surplus because of significant revenue increases and ongoing efficiencies at NRL head office,’’ he said.

“Most importantly, the Commission has made it a priority to ensure club members and players received increased distributions. Many clubs were facing significant financial challenges due to the pandemic.

“We have ensured $5.5 million will be returned to players from 2021, with a further provision of $5.5m for 2022. These amounts were not guaranteed and linked to an out performance bonus calculated at the end of 2022, but the players sacrificed a great deal financially and personally to ensure we completed the season and we wanted to reward their efforts.”

Mr V’landys said the Commission’s revenue growth and cost reduction strategies had placed the game in a stronger position than other codes.

“We have grown our revenues, continued to save costs and have set the game up to make long term investments over the next year. In 2019 our costs as a percentage of revenue were 37.5%. In 2021 after making the NRL more efficient the costs as a percentage of revenue dropped to 27.6%.

“On behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank our members and our players who have led the way in ensuring we completed a full season in 2021.”

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the commercial investment in rugby league had grown over the last year and acknowledged the support of key partners.

“2021 was an incredibly strong year for the growth of our game. Revenues returned to over $550 million and we have secured long term broadcast agreements which will see broadcast investment increase to over $400 million a year from 2023,’’ he said.

“We have received tremendous support and loyalty from our media partners, sponsors and fans, who have stuck by us. We have also been innovative in the way we have approached new commercial partners and we have continued to look for efficiencies in our cost base.

“I would also like to acknowledge the support we received from the Queensland State Government for the competition relocation and finals series. Our fans in Queensland showed their support for the game, especially in regional locations and our fans across the country showed their support, as evidenced by the overall TV audience increasing by 7%.”

To read the full Annual Report, click here.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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