RFU to become debt-free despite £8.6m loss next season

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The Rugby Football Union say their finances have never been stronger, despite an admission that they are likely to lose £8.6m next season.

A spokesman said that the RFU will shortly be debt-free, but that the organisation will lose money next season because of the absence of regular autumn internationals because of the World Cup.

The spokesman said: "The final £19m payment of the loan which funded improvements to Twickenham Stadium will be made next month, leaving the Union debt-free and with cash balances of some £25m in the bank.

"The balance sheet is strong and the Union has a very positive cash flow position. Future profit projections are also strong.

"The 2003-04 year will be a tough one financially. The World Cup leaves the RFU, in common with other northern hemisphere countries, without its three autumn international matches and, with no IRB [International Rugby Board] compensation payments, a significant shortfall.

"This has been known for many years and the RFU has planned accordingly. It was also a key subject outlined in England's bid to host the 2007 Rugby World Cup, when a June/July playing window was recommended."

* The centre Marius Joubert (injured shoulder) and the full-back Jaco van der Westhuyzen (damaged knee) will miss South Africa's Tri-Nations match against New Zealand on Saturday. South Africa have called up the hooker John Smit, lock Geo Cronje, loose forward Joe van Niekerk, fly-half Andre Pretorius, wing Ashwin Willemse and the centre Andre Snyman.