To read this content please select one of the options below:

Different shaped ball, same financial problems? A holistic performance assessment of English Rugby Union (2006-2015)

Rob Wilson (Department of Sport, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Daniel Plumley (Academy of Sport and Physical Activity, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




Rugby union’s late move to professionalism in 1995 has led to concerns about the financial development of the game. The purpose of this paper is to extend the knowledge base on professional team sports in the UK by analysing the financial and sporting performance of rugby union clubs.


Data were obtained by dissecting the annual accounts of nine English Premiership rugby clubs between 2006 and 2015. Analysis was performed using the performance assessment model, which analyses both financial and sporting areas of performance and is devised through statistical analysis procedures to provide a holistic measure of overall performance for each club.


There is financial disparity amongst clubs that has widened over the period of the study. In terms of sporting performance, the data suggest that competition is more equal, something that is less evident in other UK professional team sports such as football and rugby league. Correlation analysis reveals that overall performance varies over time in cycles.

Research limitations/implications

The study has implications for the clubs competing in the English Premiership and for the league organisers themselves, particularly with reference to regulatory procedures such as raising the salary cap and increased broadcasting deals.


The paper has demonstrated the importance of balancing multiple performance objectives in professional team sports and has expanded the academic discussion on the financial health of professional team sports in the UK, particularly with reference to the financial health of rugby union where research has historically been scarce.



Wilson, R. and Plumley, D. (2017), "Different shaped ball, same financial problems? A holistic performance assessment of English Rugby Union (2006-2015)", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 141-156.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles