Rugby World Cup: The business of the game

Sponsorship, video games, and tickets – what brings the most revenue to rugby and how good an investment is the sport?


As rugby fans celebrate the thrills and highlights of the past few world cup matches, the tournament’s organisers can rub their hands with glee: the economic boon and revenue the event has given to host France is sizeable.

A previously released report from Ernst & Young’s claimed that the tournament in Japan in 2019 saw the highest ever economic impact in Rugby World Cup history, and increased the GDP by $2.93 billion (€2.75 billion).

The profitable sport mega event is attracting even more tourists to France, meaning hotels, airlines, museums, and more cleaning up.

The 2023 tournament – the tenth edition – is expected to attract more than half a million visitors to the country, and bring approximately $1 billion (€940 million) into its economy.

Meanwhile, the organisation Rugby World Cup Ltd is expected to rake in a hefty revenue, in the vicinity of $500 million.

Football’s a very different ball game

It’s by comparing rugby to other commercial sports that you can clearly see the impact it has. The obvious one is football.

The Rugby World Cup is considered to be a top 20 sport mega event, while the Football World Cup is in the top three, and so predictably brings in a gargantuan sum.

“So it’s believed that for World Rugby, the organisers of this particular competition, may generate around $500 million from the competition,” said Simon Chadwick Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at Skema Business School in Paris.

“In comparison with FIFA, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brought somewhere in the region of about $7.5 billion to the organisers,” he added.

Where is the money coming from?

While the financial value of football may eclipse that of rugby on the world stage, the funds that flow through old rugger are not to be sniffed at.

There are three major drivers that put the balance sheet of the Rugby World Cup into the positive every four years, following three preparatory years of huge expense and investment.

The majority of the revenue comes from broadcasting rights, followed closely by sponsorships and then income from ticketing and merchandise.

Broadcasting rights include everything from showing live games to edited highlights, news reports and social media clips.

The big question is, how many pairs of eyes can the

Read more