Twickenham clash fails to fill Crusaders' coffers
March 30, 2011
A crowd of 35,504 turned up to watch the hastily-arranged fixture at English rugby's HQ © Getty Images
Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach has revealed that their high-profile Super Rugby clash with the Sharks at Twickenham last weekend failed to provide the financial windfall that they had hoped for in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
The match, the first Super Rugby game staged outside of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, was re-scheduled for London following the February 22 tremor, which claimed more than 160 lives and reduced the Crusaders' AMI Stadium to a building site.
The Crusaders secured a 44-28 victory in a highly-entertaining encounter and drew a bumper crowd of 35,094 fans to English rugby's HQ, generating a six-figure sum for the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. But after accounting for costs and the Sharks' share of the profits, the gate did not ease the Crusaders' monetary woes.
"It has not been the blockbusting financial result we might have hoped for but we certainly covered our costs and made a little bit and we've been part of a unique occasion," Riach told The Press.
It was hoped that the novelty factor and the presence of a host of international stars would attract a crowd nearer to the capped 55,000 capacity, with Riach blaming the lack of time available to promote the game among the city's large New Zealand and South African expatriate communities.
"People here [in London] have said they think we did pretty well to get in excess of 35,000 in 10 days in a busy and cluttered market," he said. "We are kind of sitting here thinking it has been an adventure, worth it and special, without being the financial hit we had hoped."
Stripped of their usual 38,628 capacity home ground, the Crusaders have been forced to hit the road with two earlier 'home' games staged at much smaller Trafalgar Park in Nelson. The Twickenham clash was supposed to soften the financial blow of those game and enable them to play the rest of their home fixtures in the South Island but there is now speculation they will be forced to transfer at least one of those fixtures to Auckland's Eden Park.
In related news, SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters has played down hopes of Super Rugby returning to the northern hemisphere, citing existing TV deals with host broadcasters.
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