CEO Andrew Hore admits the Blues are about to face a big financial hit following the cancellation of their final Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Crusaders.
The extension of Level 3 lockdown in Auckland for a further 12 days means the game, which was scheduled for Eden Park tomorrow afternoon, cannot proceed.
The match has been called a draw, and has no bearing on the competition with the Crusaders having secured the title last weekend.
It rids the franchise of a healthy injection of revenue, which Hore says will create a “massive” financial strain.
“It is significant.”
It is believed cancelling the game will also cost the Blues and New Zealand Rugby up to $1 million in lost revenue, as the Herald understands the 43,236 tickets sold for Sunday’s match generates gate takings between $800,000 and $1 million, with net profit thought to be around the $450,000 to $500,000 range.
There is now the tough task of reimbursing those fans with purchased tickets, though the Blues are asking fans to consider a unique alternative.
In an open letter to fans, the franchise offered their supporters a ‘Sapphire Ticket’, which would transfer their tickets from this game for a pre-season match next year, with the Crusaders invited to play in a “re-match”.
“We will find not hosting you at Eden Park a big hit and we would like to present an option to you to help us stay in the game for longer,” the Blues wrote.
For every ticket transferred over to a Sapphire Ticket, 25 per cent will be donated to either charities, junior clubs and/or community groups in our region.
Refunds are available for those who don’t wish to take up the offer, however, customers may find themselves in for a surprise if they don’t opt for a refund shortly, as although the Blues note all refunds will still be honoured, after August 30 they will automatically transfer remaining tickets into a Sapphire Ticket.
Hore says businesses in surrounding suburbs will be heavily impacted from the cancellation as well, with many businesses relying on traffic before and after games at Eden Park.
“[There are] major ripple effects,” he says.
It will add to the franchise’s current financial struggles. Earlier this week Hore revealed that following six years of deficits, the revenue generated from crowds at games helped save the club from insolvency.
Hore says there were discussions around relocating the match outside of Auckland, but as a team they didn’t feel right about it.
“We didn’t think it was a good look to sneak the team out of Auckland during lockdown’, he says.
“There’s a bigger picture to all of this.”
He says the message is clear not to reschedule, and they’re happy to follow rules.
From a playing perspective, Hore says the cancellation is gutting, and that the organisation was “dying” for the game to go ahead.
The Highlanders’ match with the Hurricanes today will go ahead behind closed doors. Kick-off has been moved from 7.05pm to 3.05pm per an agreement between NZ Rugby and the Government under Level 2, which requires a travelling team to fly in and out of the host city on the same day.
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