The Australian Rugby Union is back in the black, reporting a $3.7 million surplus for 2016.
The surplus is a big turnaround on the $9.8 million loss for 2015, though that was mainly due to the decline in match day revenue - with Australia only hosting two Tests in the World Cup year.
The new broadcast deal and a normalised Test schedule has helped drag the figure back from the near $10 million deficit, according to the 2016 annual report, which was released this afternoon.The broadcast dollar accounted for $61.4 million of the total $127.8 million in revenue, up $43.3 million from 2015.
That significant windfall, coupled with a match-day revenue spike of $13.2 million and a $5 million spike in sponsorship coin, has put the governing body in a strong financial position.
The uptick in revenue allowed for a significant increase in expenditure.
In a total increase in net expenditure of $29.1 million, player costs came with the heftiest price tag.
The $5.4 million increase enveloped an uptick in the number of Wallabies Tests played and subsequent match payments paid, pay rises for Sevens players in an Olympic year and $3.6 million in Western Force player costs assumed by the ARU under its management agreement with Rugby WA.
On the participation side of the ledger, a 37 percent spike in the number of Aussies trying their hand at Sevens boosted the total number of rugby participants for 2016.In a year in which the Australian Women's Sevens stole the hearts of the nation en route to an Olympic Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics, there was a 33 percent increase in the number of women playing Sevens, mainly driven in Queensland and New South Wales schools.
There was also a carry on effect to women's XVs, where club rugby participation increased by 24 percent.
Couple that with a 39 percent increase in the number of men playing Sevens and the 2.1 percent increase in total rugby participation has its foundation.
A total 273,095 people participated in rugby in 2016 - an increase of 5632 from the year prior.Where the numbers are perhaps a touch concerning is the continual slide of total club rugby participation.
While it did not fall as much as the year prior, a -0.8 percent decrease was registered in 2016.
The "Game On" program, in which school kids are taught the basics of rugby in a five-week crash course, has not yet translated to additional club participation, despite its success to date.
The age bracket of biggest concern is U12 to U18, where there was a -7.5 percent decline in 2016 compared to the year prior.
“Over the last twelve months we have seen that our community wants more detail about the strategic direction of grassroots rugby and we are committed to sharing this information with them, once the review is complete," ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne said.
“While we face challenges, 2016 showed us that there are also significant opportunities for us to grow and strengthen our game in this country."The growth in Sevens and women’s rugby, and the transitions from Game On into junior club rugby registrations, show us that Australians have an appetite for rugby.
"We just need to connect with them in a way that suits them.
“Finally, I must mention the incredible success of our Australian Women’s Sevens Team who inspired a nation last year with their fantastic gold medal win at the Rio Olympics, just three months after they became the first Australian team to ever win an HSBC Sevens World Series.
"They are fantastic role models and ambassadors for our sport, and were instrumental in driving the growth of Sevens Rugby during 2016.”
To read the full report, click here.