The NRL has reported a $43.1 million surplus for the 2021 season, with ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys declaring the competition’s finances are healthier than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
With revenues of $575.1m last year — a $155.4m (37 per cent) increase on 2020 — the NRL has begun to reimburse players, as agreed, for taking pay cuts.
The Rugby League Players’ Association said the players were contractually entitled to a percentage of the profit for their sacrifice under collective bargaining agreement revisions.
An NRL statement said $5.5 million will be paid to players, “ensuring the majority of their 2021 pay reductions are returned … even though no payment is required until after the 2022 season”.
There is a further provision of $5.5 million for the players in 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,” V’landys said.
Cash grants of $9 million to the 16 NRL clubs increased by five per cent to $239.6m.
Prior to COVID-19, the clubs received $203.2m in the 2019 financial year.
The NRL finished last season with $171m in cash reserves, up from $126m at the end of the 2020 financial year.
V’landys said that despite almost $30 million in COVID-19 costs, including relocating teams to Queensland hubs to finish last season, the game was in a great position thanks to “significant revenue increases and ongoing efficiencies at NRL head office”.
“Most importantly, the Commission has made it a priority to ensure club members and players received increased distributions,” he said.
“Many clubs were facing significant financial challenges due to the pandemic.”
V’landys said the NRL will now look to “make long term investments over the next year”.
“In 2019 our costs as a percentage of revenue were 37.5 per cent,” he said.
“In 2021 after making the NRL more efficient the costs as a percentage of revenue dropped to 27.6 per cent.”
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo thanked media partners, sponsors and fans for their support and described 2021 as “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,” Abdo said.