Rugby Growing in Popularity and Booming Commercially: MasterCard Study
According to new research commissioned by MasterCard, the 2010 RBS Six Nations Championship that concluded on Saturday delivered a US$632.81 million total economic impact for the Northern hemisphere’s six competing nations.
The study – for which there will be several future data releases examining the sport’s economic impact in key markets worldwide – highlights a commercially strong picture for Rugby Union in Europe as the sport emerges from the global downturn.
The MasterCard study estimated that England has enjoyed a positive economic impact of $132.82 million – the largest of the participating countries. Ireland received a boost of $123.06 million, followed by France, who has seen a windfall of $122.10 million. In Wales, $109.00 million of economic impact has been generated, with Scotland experiencing a $94.56 million spur and Italy seeing a $51.27 million benefit from the championship.
The economic impact has been felt through spend on items such as match tickets, transport, food and beverage sales, accommodation, city attractions and merchandising, as well as sponsors and organisations spending on marketing. Previous research by RBS suggested that the 2008 RBS Six Nations Championship generated a total economic impact of $593.99 million (cited as £394.4 million) across the six competing countries, highlighting positive growth today by comparison.
MasterCard is an Official Partner of the Rugby World Cup 2011, taking place in New Zealand next year. It commissioned one of the leading international sport business institutions, the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS), to examine the economic impact of the 2010 RBS Six Nations Championship and associated demographic trends. This is the first release of a larger study which will extend to other key markets – both developed and emerging – for the sport across the world.
Dr. Anna Semens, Research Fellow at CIBS, said: "Though rugby was hit by the downturn in line with the rest of sport, all signs suggest that it is recovering strongly and continues to be one of the Northern hemisphere’s top sports properties, attracting high attendances and TV viewing figures, as well as managing to attract new fans to the sport through offering different formats of the game which have a broad appeal across all sectors of the community."
The MasterCard research found that the Six Nations tournament remains enormously popular across Europe – and can be viewed as an indicator of rugby emerging strongly from the global economic downturn. For example, an estimated 125 million people watched the 2010 Six Nations Championship on television across the six participating nations – an average of 8.3 million viewers per match. In addition, an estimated 1,054,654 people attended 2010 matches, which is an increase on last the previous season, which saw attendances of 981,963.
Taking England’s two home matches in the 2010 tournament against Wales and Ireland as examples, corporate hospitality sales at Twickenham have increased by more than 60% from 2009 to 2010; estimates indicate that RFU could have filled 82,000-capacity Twickenham twice for both of England's home matches this season, despite a 2.5% increase in ticket prices following the UK’s recent VAT rise; the Marriot Hotel, located in Twickenham’s redeveloped South Stand, was sold out for both weekends; and Twickenham’s hospitality area was fully sold out for the England v Ireland game and achieved sales of 4,000 tickets for England v Wales, compared to sales last season of 3,000 and 2,800 against France and Scotland respectively.
The MasterCard research identifies numerous other examples across the Six Nations participants, including in France, where the rights-holding broadcaster (France Televisions)
Popularity of Friday evening trial match
Holding a Six Nations match on Friday evening – in the second year of its trial – has again proved popular in the 2010 Championship. The 2010 match between Wales and France attracted the second highest number of TV viewers of the competition – estimated at 10.5 million across UK, Ireland, France and Italy – as well as a capacity crowd in the Millennium Stadium. The most popular match was the France v England game on the final weekend, with up to 15 million viewers tuning in to see if France could complete a ‘Grand Slam’ of wins against all five other nations.
A healthy picture of participation
The MasterCard research also examined participation rates for rugby union in the Northern hemisphere’s top six nations, finding that more than 2.6 million people in total currently play the sport. The largest numbers are in England, where 687,000 people played rugby in 2009, an estimated 4.4% increase from 2007, the year England reached its second consecutive Rugby World Cup 2011 Final.
Healthy growth is seen across the four other RBS Six Nations participants. In France, by comparison, 273,084 played rugby in 2009, up 22% from the 2007 figure of 224,115. In Ireland, there were 152,830 people playing the sport in 2009, up from 114,627 in 2007, a rise of 33%. 46,324 people played rugby in Wales in 2009, up from 42,000 in 2007, a rise of 10%. In Scotland, there were 32,817 people playing in 2009, up from 24,905 in 2007, a rise of 31%. The largest rise of 35% was in Italy – the newest entrant to the RBS Six Nations – where 61,487 people played in 2009, up from 45,376 in 2007.
Michael Robichaud, vice president, Global Sponsorships, MasterCard Worldwide, said: “It is exciting to see rugby showing such strength as we head towards Rugby World Cup 2011. MasterCard has put our commitment behind rugby as we believe that the sport has incredible ability to engage and connect with fans, many of whom are MasterCard cardholders, across the globe. This research underscores our belief and demonstrates that rugby, while a significant sport today, continues to advance, develop and inspire more people in existing and new markets around the world.”
Stuart Cameron, vice president, Regional Sponsorships, Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard Worldwide, added: “We are really excited that the Rugby World Cup 2011 is happening in our region. This research will be very interesting and relevant to the Rugby community and supporting businesses across the region as we gear up for the Tournament in New Zealand.”
MasterCard commissioned the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) in Coventry University, England, to develop a report that examines the economic impact of the 2010 RBS Six Nations Championship and emerging demographic trends.
•Compared the tournament with other major sports events, with particular reference to analysis of attendance, TV audience, visitor spend and other economic indicators
•Reviewed previous economic impact studies of the tournament
•Calculated an estimate of the economic impact of the 2010 competition at the national level for the six host countries by collating data then calculating the direct and indirect expenditure
Appropriate benchmarks have been sourced from previous economic impact studies where available, to aid interpretation and ensure consistency. Information presented in previous published reports has been extracted in order to model the economic impacts. In addition, a wide variety of publicly available data has been provided by organisations including the International Rugby Board (IRB) and national federations, and in annual reports as well as data accessed through sources such as Mintel and EBSCO.
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