Relief all round as Covid-hit Lions tour delivers for bottom line

Broadcasting and sponsorship rights raised €44.5m – a good result considering

The South African Rugby Football Union and the British and Irish Lions may have been at loggerheads during their fractious series of matches over the summer, but they'll both be happy that the tour has delivered for the bottom line.

Figures just filed at Companies Office show that Lions Tour to South Africa DAC – of which the two are the only shareholders – did even better on the TV rights deals it secured than it had expected. The whole tour was in doubt until close to the departure date as Covid-19 wracked both Europe and Africa.

The company, set up in 2019, was responsible for managing, controlled, directing and administering the exploitation of the commercial rights of the 2021 Lions tour. But it is not involved in the merchandising side of the tour or in revenue streams from ticket sales.

Broadcasting and sponsorship rights formed the main income streams for the company. Broadcasting revenue exceeded targets, it said, with the rights largely unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, things were more challenging on the sponsorship side, with revenue coming in below target.

“The pandemic had a bigger impact on sponsorship rights, particularly on those rights being delivered in South Africa,” the directors state in the accounts for 2021. “While negotiations with sponsors resulted in some revenue reductions, the majority accepted alternative rights packages.”

In the end, £37 million (€44.5 million) was secured in revenue.

During the year, the company paid out £11.5 million to the entity that runs the Lions tours, which is owned by the four "home" rugby unions in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. It also paid £13.25 million to the South African Rugby Football Union.

In the challenging circumstances of the tour, that’s a result.