QRU stymied by player payments, sponsor failure but Ballymore solution on horizon

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Queensland Rugby Union will continue to look for a solution to the black hole of Ballymore after reporting a loss of $1.09 million for 2018.

The failure of collapsed property group Majella to honour a seven-figure sponsorship and $366,000 in 'onerous' contract payments to Quade Cooper, James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt, has prevented the QRU from recording a modest profit for the second consecutive year.

Majella failed to make payments on a sleeve sponsorship deal worth more than $1m even before it went into voluntary administration last year, although QRU chief executive David Hanham said the organisation would continue to liaise with the Majella Group for settlement of the unpaid debt.

The 'onerous' contract payments refer to Queensland still paying a portion of the wages of Cooper, Slipper and Hunt, despite them now playing for rival teams.

It is uncomfortable revelation for the QRU, which would prefer to rule a line under the past and move on, but changes to accounting procedures mean the dollar amount has been disclosed.James Slipper. photo: Getty Images

But with the trio likely to be languishing in club rugby and continuing to be paid had they stayed in Queensland, the move allows a fresh start and a reminder to parents of talented teens of the culture that Brad Thorn insists on.

Those costs aside, it is the decaying Ballymore precinct that continues to be an enormous burden for the organisation.

Overall costs for the precinct in Brisbane's inner north, are about $1.5m a year, including a $1.1m cash loss for essentials such as the maintenance of the 12ha precinct and power charges.

After a forensic examination of its business model in 2016, subsequent cost slashing and frugality have resulted in a streamlined organisation that otherwise is running at a profit.

Community engagement, including the vaunted indigenous program, made a $102,000 surplus, with grassroots programs returning $21,900.

The Reds were $194,000 in the black despite failing to draw a crowd of more than 20,000 to any game at Suncorp Stadium last year.

But CEO David Hanham said Ballymore continued to be a concern.

"Until we get a solution so that Ballymore can stand on its own two feet, we'll continue to be in a challenging situation and there's financial pressure on the QRU," Hanham said.

"It's on us to solve it and I do feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel because of hard work going on and ongoing and productive discussions with the State and Federal governments."

Plans to make the precinct a national women's training centre as well as a Pacific hub continue to advance, with genuine hope the area can continue to be a driver for the growth of the sport, while easing financial pressures on the QRU.