Ruck and Roll: the financial success of the Rugby World Cup 2019

With the Rugby World Cup in full swing across Japan, Senior Adviser Jason Adams looks at the financial impact of the tournament on the host nation, and what it might mean for its economic future.

This autumn has seen ‘World Cup Fever’ sweep the globe, with Japan hosting what has been described as one of the best rugby tournaments to date! Over the summer, Ian Howard looked at the economic impact the event was forecasted to have on Japan – as he predicted, the eyes of the world have been on far more than the game itself (…until tomorrow, of course, when England take on the All Blacks in the semi-final!).

With the tournament due to conclude next Saturday, we now know a lot more about the successes of the event, and whether it has met financial expectations…

A ‘Try’ for the home team

The event, which is the ninth Rugby World Cup (and the first staged in Asia), has proven a unique chance for Japan to showcase its cultural, social and economic prowess – an opportunity it has grabbed with both hands. The country has heavily invested in the tournament, from stadia improvements to infrastructure developments across the 12 host cities.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 has been a complete success, with sell-out games, global coverage and incredible fan engagement across the world. Of the 1.8m tickets available, 1.6m of them were sold in advance of the tournament, with fans visiting from more than 170 countries.1

Much of the success has been down to the spectacular performance of the home team, with the Brave Blossoms defying the odds with a series of shock victories, including over pre-tournament favourite Ireland, and reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in history. This has, in turn, inspired a new generation of rugby players, with a reported 1.8 million people in Asia starting to play rugby, one million of whom are from Japan itself. 2

Converting to financial success

As Ian covered in his article, the tournament was set to deliver record economic benefits to Japan, and was on track to be the most widely viewed, most digitally engaged and most socially and economically impactful rugby event ever. But has it lived up to the forecasts?

Despite Chief Executive of World Rugby Brett Gosper predicting that commercial revenue projections for Japan were going to be 20 to 25 per cent lower than the record-breaking 2015 tournament (held in England), the 2019 event is now expected to bring in around US$449 million – US$38 million more than four years ago.3

Keeping momentum

And it’s not just the immediate financial success that will be important to Japan; the country will be looking to capitalise on this triumph – both at home and on the economic global stage, especially with next year’s Toyko Olympics coming up!

It has recently been announced that Japan’s rugby union (JRFU) is planning a new domestic top-flight club competition. JRFU Vice President Katsuyuki Kiyomiya told Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei that the union plans to launch a new 12-team tournament in autumn 2021, which it is hoped would generate annual revenue of 50 billion yen (US$460 million) through media rights and sponsorship deals.4

The tournament’s success has also come at an opportune moment for Japan to ease any economic and trade tensions, showing itself to be a progressive and outward-looking nation. Since the tournament started, Tokyo and Washington have agreed to a partial trade deal – more than two years after President Trump walked away from the regional Asia-Pacific trade agreement.

“An unprecedented opportunity”

As the tournament is yet to conclude, the total impact remains to be seen – however, it has undoubtedly been an incredible success for Japan. In March 2018, Japan Rugby 2019 Chief Executive Akira Shimazu said: “Rugby World Cup 2019 represents an unprecedented economic opportunity for the whole of Japan…this is a tournament that is on track to deliver a significant economic legacy for our nation…”5 – it has done just that!



1,2 For Japan, the Rugby World Cup is about so much more than sporting glory, New Statesman, September 2019

3 Rugby World Cup in Japan proves a ‘game-changer’ for the code globally, Ministry of Sport, September 2019

4 Japan rugby union planning new domestic league for 2021, SportsPro, October 2019

5 RWC 2019 Set to Deliver Record Economic Benefits, Rugby World Cup, March 2018

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Author: Jason Adams
Author: Jason AdamsSenior Adviser