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'It was a disappointing year': Roughriders lose $1.1 million in 2023

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A tough season on the field led an even tougher time off the field for the Saskatchewan Roughriders according to the club's annual report for 2023.

The community owned team reported a net operating loss of $1.1 million dollars in 2023 and cited two primary factors.

“Our on field performance and the economy. Two consecutive years of 6-12 records and not making the playoffs challenged the team’s sentiment and ticket sales. The economy with the high inflation and increasing interest rates has affected everyone in Rider Nation,” said Kent Paul, Chief Financial Officer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Paul went on to share the club’s EBIDA – Earnings Before Interest, Depreciation, and Amortization in detail.

“For the year ending in March 31, 2024 the club had a positive EBIDA of $1.5 million dollars. When you add back the club’s amortization expense and interest paid on debt. The club had excess expense over revenues for a loss of $1.1 million. The club’s revenues resulted in a total [of] 36 million dollars, a 4 million dollar decrease from the prior year,” Paul shared.

Also adding to the strain was the fact that operating expenses rose to $37 million - a $900,000 increase from 2022. In addition, revenue from gate receipts decreased by $1.9 million from the previous year.

“I think it is reflective of what last year was, it was a disappointing year on the field. As a result we didn’t have overly strong financials,” said CEO Craig Reynolds.

Reynolds also addressed the lack of ticket sales in 2024 and what the team is trying to do to reconcile with fans.

“Our strategy is really around trying to get families and youth to games with youth pricing, the family packs are guide. We’ve seen really good growth in that. There’s no doubt we need to get younger. In the first year we sold 2,000 family packs and last year we sold 7,000,” Reynolds said.

“It’s what every pro sports team is challenged with is trying to balance both volume and revenue. Making sure that your price is providing good value and sort of maximize your yield.”

Reynolds also noted season ticket holders are on the decline.

“We’ve got some work to do there for sure. The reality is we’re still selling season tickets so the numbers will fluctuate. We’ve seen two straight years in decline. The number this year would be in the 10 per cent range,” Reynolds shared.

The team says its focused on rebuilding its relationship with fans.

“We had certainly negative fan sentiment last year. So I think a few things, obviously winning really matters. The fan base wants a team that they’re proud of. And I think you’re seeing signs of that this year,” Reynolds explained.

“I think as well some of the COVID pandemic had a bigger impact in the community outreach. We went almost two years without having the players out, I think that set us back a bit and now we’re doubling down on that through the foundation. I think over 80 percent of the days we were out in the community. I think that’s really important to improve that connection,” he added.

Even with the 2-0 start to the season there are still thousands of tickets remaining for Sunday’s home opener against Hamilton but the team does not seem fazed.

“They’re trending positively. We had a really good day of ticket sales since last week’s win. The reality is we sell a majority of tickets in the few days leading up to the game,” Reynolds explained.

“It’s a change in consumer behaviour that really happened post COVID. I think the Sunday night is a bit of a challenge during the school year. But we are trending positive and hope that continues into Sunday.”

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