A Chat with Rugby Canada Chairman Tim Powers on Financials, Staff, Tests and the Challenges Ahead
BCRN: Hi Tim, good to catch up with you before the end of the year and wish you and your family a happy holiday season.
TP: Thanks Mark. Best to you, your family and all the readers of BCRN.
BCRN: There's been some concern as you know with the financials at USA Rugby, their 2018 audited financials showed an end of year deficiency in Net Assets of ($4,841,997). In 2017 it was a deficiency of ($595,023), so quite a jump in the wrong direction for them. That has the Canadian rugby community wondering about the Rugby Canada financials, especially as the audited financials for 2018 haven't been released yet. In 2017 Rugby Canada showed a deficiency of ($389,142) in year end revenues/expenses dropping from an excess of $53,412 in 2016, so the question is what does 2018 look like? What number are we going to see in that Statement of Operations on the bottom line?
TP: Rugby Canada's 2018 financial statements are currently with our auditor BDO. Unfortunately it has taken longer that anyone would have liked to complete them. There are a myriad of reasons for that from changing our financial management system to the type of accounting review being done.
We will still likely be in deficit when the 2018 numbers are finalized but less than in 2017 is my expectation. We have taken measures to make sure we addressed our deficit and continue to try to build with an eye to establishing a reserve fund. Though we are not quite there yet with that fund.
We tend to be a $15 million or so operation depending on how you calculate it. We are a national sports organization operating in multi-layered professional systems. We don't have the revenue we would like or need to do all we do. We continue to look at how we can become more efficient and make choices about what we should be doing and what we shouldn't. Until we get that right the financial management of the organization will be challenging.
BCRN: What steps has Rugby Canada taken to keep expenses within its revenue forecast? Also when will the 2018 audited financials be available online?
TP - Like any organization Rugby Canada has expense control mechanisms. We try to advance purchase airline tickets and the like to save money. Travel restrictions exist when they are necessary.
We look to get the most favorable currency hedges because as you can appreciate we receive funding from international organizations who don't pay in Canadian dollars.
We manage expenditures around events we run. Events can sink you if you don't manage costs. Thankfully we have some of the best event managers in the world so we are lucky.
These are but a few examples and before anyone says well what does the Board itself do to manage expenses? I'd just say we follow the same procedures as our team. For the record I went to the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan twice I paid my own airfare each time.
The audited 2018 financials will be made public in the first quarter of the New Year. I welcome any questions on them when they are published.
BCRN: A new COO was hired early last year, Bryan Wilson. Was he brought in to stabilize the organization financially and what has he accomplished? He's been low key, is he still with Rugby Canada?
TP - Bryan Wilson was brought into Rugby Canada to be a COO in the truest sense, the Chief Operating Officer of the organization. Part of that role has involved financial management. He is has been an important player in changing our approach to financial management.
COO's don't tend to be front and centre with the public.
Yes Bryan is still with Rugby Canada.
BCRN: That brings up another point, Rugby Canada took down the staff list from the website not long after Bryan Wilson came on board. What is the current staff size of Rugby Canada, is there an organization chart that can be shared so people know what the organization looks like now?
TP - All our major staffing announcements have been publicly made. That will continue to be our practice.
Rugby Canada staff size varies and should be differentiated among full time, part time and contractors.
I know some in the rugby community believe RC could be run by volunteers and a handful of staff. To me that notion is foolish. The day to day operations of an entity this size trying to compete globally needs many capable paid professionals and we are lucky to have them.
I'd be happy to find a contemporary figure in the New Year.
BCRN: Can you give some hint as to what the men's XVs summer tests will look like, so far I only see the French Barbarians in Montreal on July 4th?
TP- That information will soon be publicly released. But as a teaser I can tell you we will be playing a tier 1 team on the East Coast in July and our team will be playing in different venues throughout the summer. We want to, in a cost effective way, showcase the sport in different parts of Canada.
BCRN: From your perspective on the Board what have been the highs and lows over the previous decade, also looking ahead as we start another decade what gives you hope and what are some of the biggest challenges for Canadian rugby?
TP - A constant high for me is the passion of the Canadian rugby community. There is no doubt from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island and everywhere in between we have have great people who love this sport. Even when things get tough and the criticism comes it doesn't diminish our resolve or commitment to lifting the game in all its aspects in Canada.
Even though the editorials and stories on BCRN can be biting from time to time I do make sure to take in the views that are expressed.
So highs over the last decade would include - our Women's XV finishing 2nd at the 2014 World Cup, our Women's 7s winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, both our Women's and Men's Teams winning World Series Tournaments, the creation and success of the Canada 7s in Vancouver, the building of the Al Charron High Performance Centre, ending pay to play for the Women's XV team, both our 7s teams qualifying for the 2020 Olympics, the advent of a fully funded men's U20 team, the return of the Pride, qualifying for every RWC in the decade, the MLR, the opportunities it creates for our players and of course the Toronto Arrows. Plus seeing our Board modernize by making sure neither gender will have less than 40 percent representation. These are just a few.
The lows would be we fell farther behind on the Men's XV front during the course of the decade. But I believe we are starting to get back on track. As a sport over the decade we saw and continue to see more challenges related to access and participation in the game. Not to be alarmist but in some parts of Canada and around the world the game in its current form is under threat. We all need to get wiser about attracting millennials and gen Z.
Hope and challenge come from different places for me. I see new leaders emerging who are going to help drive the game. People like Maria Samson, Roo Chintoh, Sally Dennis, Kathy Henderson, Rose Labreche, Meghan Howat, Jack Hanratty, Damon Leonard, Jamie Cudmore, Phil Mack, Ray Barkwill and many others.
We would all like to find more financial resources to help advance the game. The landscape is more competitive from everything to E-Sports to the way people participate in community activity.
The cost of participation in rugby is also something we need to be focused on. Insurance costs don't tend to go down. Our pricing and accessibility models need to change.
We need to stay fully committed to making a top 10 - 12 performance at 2027 RWC. This will not be easy. More tough choices will likely need to be made. But I believe we can do it if we keep on track with the decisions and actions that have been made in the last 18 months. No one else is static we can't be either.
BCRN: Thanks Tim, for sharing your insights.
TP - Thank you for the opportunity. I am always happy to speak to anyone about rugby. Just email me at email@example.com