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Landers’ loss could be up to $2m

21 March 2022
Roger Clark file photo from the ODT
Roger Clark. Photo: ODT files.

By Adrian Seconi

The Highlanders face a loss of up to $2 million this season.

Chief executive Roger Clark was not available for an interview earlier this week, but in an emailed response he outlined how dire the financial situations has become as the franchise copes with a third season disrupted by Covid-19.

He confirmed the Highlanders’ expected loss was in line with the other four New Zealand teams of between $500,000 and $2 million.

While that is a wide range, the Highlanders’ accounts are a closed book and his admission does offer a peek into the tight spot they find themselves.

So how bad is it?

"We won’t know exactly until the season has run its course. However, current projections are looking at a loss of between $500,000 and $2 million," Clark said.

It is not financially ruinous, but "our reserves will take a hit and that impacts future plans".

"The Highlanders rely on broadcast, sponsorship and crowds for its revenue, so no crowds make the business model challenging."

Getting people back into the stadiums would certainly help ease the pecuniary position.

New Zealand's five Super Rugby heads wrote to the Government asking for urgent intervention. That letter was leaked to the media and revealed both their desperation and bemusement.

The Women’s Cricket World Cup was granted an exemption on gathering limits by the Ministry of Health to host crowds of up to 10% of the venues’ capacity. That has since been lifted to 20% .

Rugby is restricted to pods of 100 people and that has proved uneconomical. The compliance costs are too high to make it work.

They want a similar exemption and are lobbying hard.

"We are waiting for an update from Government re[garding] crowds at outdoor events," Clark wrote.

The other major issue facing the franchise has being staying healthy. The Crusaders, Blues and the Highlanders had to pull out of their weekend Super Rugby Pacific fixtures because they were unable to field a team.

The Hurricanes and Moana Pasifika have also previously been sidelined by Covid.

It has got its claws into the camps and forced New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to hastily rejig the schedule again.

Clark was mindful of people’s privacy but said the positive cases "have steadily built throughout the week".

"All our positive players and staff are currently isolating for seven days, with most due to return early next week .

"Recovery from the virus and returning to training and playing is not an exact science, but the Hurricanes had a similar situation to us last week and would have been able to front a side if required this weekend.

"This gives us confidence we will be in a similar position to be ready to play against the Blues next weekend."

The Covid disruptions and subsequent forced postponements have put pressure on the playing window.

NZR is confident the postponed games can be played safely without compromising the integrity of the competition or jeopardising player welfare as they return to play post Covid.

Clark agrees.

"We will need to pivot from time to time while we look to complete this important competition in the middle of an epidemic. All parties are working hard to complete the competition with as much integrity as possible given the circumstances.

"We are sympathetic to Moana Pasifika’s situation having lost their early round games to Covid disruption, but they get under way again this weekend and let’s hope that they can move on now and complete the balance of their games without too much further disruption."

Republished courtesy of the Otago Daily Times.

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