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The 137-year-old Hancock Park-based club is facing a $20,000 loss and will no longer field a senior men's team this season.
Club chairman Kelvin Trainor yesterday confirmed its premier 2 team was dropping out of the grade. He also revealed the club would need to generate more income to cover the projected shortfall or it would eventually have to fold.
The solution appears to lie with the development of a sporting hub and forging a more formal relationship with the Caversham Association Football Club.
Caversham has been sharing the facilities at Hancock Park since last year.
Trainor said "some hard decisions" would have to be made at the club's annual meeting in September or October.
"It cost about $50,000 a year to run our club and we have that money in the bank, so we have got reserves.
"But our income is probably $30,000, so we are $20,000 short. Last year we had a $20,000 cash loss. Basically we've got cash reserves for two years.
"What we've got to do is develop a sporting hub and share those [fixed] costs with other codes.
"What we are looking at doing is making it [Pirates Rugby Football Club] into a charitable trust type of arrangement, so then members from each code, whether that is football, netball or rugby, will have representatives on that.
"Then underneath that there will be the individual clubs. That is the business model that we will need to move to."
Asked if he could ever see a time when Pirates would field another senior men's team he said: "football appears to be the stronger brand for us.
"At the end of the day we just can't attract rugby players. Over the last three years we've made numerous attempts to attract young players."
Pirates pulled out of the Dunedin premier rugby club competition at the beginning of the 2017 season.
It had struggled for a couple of seasons before that. Its demise left the premier grade with nine teams.
All Blacks such as Kevin Skinner and Ray Bell played for Pirates and the club last won the premier banner in 2002.
While Pirates will not field a senior men's team for the remainder of the season, its junior club is still healthy. Pirates have 11 junior teams and they also have a senior women's team.
Macandrew Netball Club also uses the facilities at Hancock Park, and the Dunedin City Council recently re-levelled the No 1 field at the venue.
Work was estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000.