DVML prepared for declining interest in rugby

A decline in interest in attending rugby matches, due in part to "wall-to-wall" television coverage, should not affect revenue at the city's new stadium, Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive David Davies said yesterday.

The decline had already been identified and worked into the budgets for Forsyth Barr Stadium, he said.

Mr Davies was asked to respond to news from Christchurch that city's venues company was struggling to service a $75.2 million debt raised for the development of new stands at AMI Stadium.

The Press, in Christchurch, reported one proposal to deal with the situation was for the Christchurch City Council to inject $45 million into Vbase, a council-owned venues management on which DVML was modelled.

The report said part of the problem was lower revenues for the stadium, with rugby crowds down on 2008 attendances.

Asked if DVML could strike the same problems, Mr Davies said it would be "out of order" to comment on the debt situation, as he did not know enough about the Vbase funding model.

"However, we are sympathetic, and would sympathise with them in that rugby across the country has been affected by wall-to-wall coverage on Sky [TV], and changes in public thinking."

However, DVML had benefited from having an understanding of those issues in its financial forecasting.

"We trimmed back expectations for both the Highlanders and Otago."

Mr Davies said he adjusted the forecasts for rugby figures early in his tenure, after finding they were "enthusiastic, to say the least".

As to some of the numbers for rugby games forecast early on, "with the best will in the world it was never going to happen".

Other options were identified for the stadium, so the figures had not badly affected overall budgets.

Asked what he meant by "changes in public opinion" on rugby, Mr Davies said there had been a movement in younger age groups away from the sport towards others, like basketball.

There was also a movement in interest from the ITM Cup to Super Rugby.

There are differences between Vbase and DVML.

Information released by the Dunedin City Council last year showed under the model for Forsyth Barr Stadium, council-owned company Dunedin Venues Ltd (DVL) would own the stadium and the related debt.

DVL would lease the stadium to DVML.

DVML would run other city venues, the Dunedin Centre, the Dunedin Town Hall and the Edgar Centre.

Both companies would operate within the council's Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL) group of companies.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz



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