Ackerley Sports Group Announces Investment in Springboks

9 February 2024

 The South African Rugby Union (SARU), the governing body of the Springboks, 4-times World Champion national rugby team of South Africa, and Ackerley Sports Group (ASG) today announced that they are negotiating a partnership agreement to invest in South African rugby at all levels, supporting the professional game, and growing the revenue base of the Springboks and SARU's commercial activities.

Under the terms of the agreement, which remains subject to further negotiations and final approval by the constituent members of SARU, ASG will invest in a Commercial Rights Corporation (CRC), which will hold all current and future revenue-generating assets of the Springboks and SARU. CRC will be majority owned by SARU, with ASG taking a significant minority interest.  

"We are excited to partner with a legendary global sports franchise like the Springboks. Our collaboration will establish a world-wide expansion of the most iconic brand in rugby. This investment in the Springboks represents a unique opportunity for us to match the on-field success of the team with the resources needed to establish and sustain the franchise as a global powerhouse. We will bring decades of experience and passion for excellence with us while listening carefully to the people of South Africa to ensure that this team continues to reflect the history and culture of this amazing country," said Ted Ackerley, Co-Founder, Ackerley Sports Group.

Ackerley Sports Group is an expansion of the investment practice established in 2002 by Ted and Christopher Ackerley at Ackerley Partners and includes four other members of the team, including their London-based partner, Timothy Kirkwood, who is overseeing the Springbok's relationship.  Ackerley Partners has owned all or a part of a number of professional sports franchises, including the Seattle SuperSonics, the Seattle Storm, the Seattle Seadogs, the Seattle Seawolves, the Coachella Firebirds and most recently the launch of the 32nd NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken. ASG also recently partnered with 49ers Enterprises to assume majority control of the Leeds United Football Club.

The South African national rugby union team known as the Springboks is the country's national team governed by the South African Rugby Union. The team has been representing the South African Rugby Union in international rugby since 1891, when they played their first test match against a British Isles touring team. The Springboks made their Rugby World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament and the team, under the captaincy of Francois Pienaar, defeated the All Blacks in the final (15-12). The campaign was made into a Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. Currently, the Springboks are the number one ranked rugby team in the world and are the reigning World Champions, having won the World Cup on a record four occasions (1995, 2007, 2019 and 2023).

Growing Impact of the Global Rugby Market

CRC's mission will be to grow the value of all SARU's commercial activities, including revenue generated from sponsorship, broadcasting, partnerships, content, marketing and match-day revenue. CRC's scope covers the national teams and SARU's partnership in international competitions and domestic rugby properties. SARU's share of CRC's proceeds will fund the amateur, schools, community rugby, amateur refereeing, administration and governance and other costs of running the amateur game in South Africa.

The recent 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) hosted in France was the third biggest global event for attendance after FIFA World Cup & the Olympics. The broadcast reach of the 2023 RWC set a new record with a global reach of 200mm and over 1bn views of 2023 RWC content. With the Rugby World Cup heading to the United States in 2031, there are significant tail winds in place to properly establish the sport in the world's largest media market and having an American strategic partner guiding the Boks into this arena will provide the resources to continue their dominance both on the pitch and off.

About Ackerley Sports Group

Ackerley Sports Group was formed in 2023 by Christopher and Ted Ackerley of Ackerley Partners, LLC in Seattle, WA along with their London-based partner - Timothy Kirkwood who brings a prolific background in international finance and investment banking. The platform invests in the sports sector with a focus on leagues, teams, venues, media, technology and development opportunities. To contact Ackerley Sports Group: [email protected].

About the South African Rugby Union

The South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) is an association of the 15 provincial rugby unions in SA and is responsible for the promotion, development, and support of all levels of rugby in the country. It manages and administers multiple national teams, among them the Springboks, Springbok Women, Springbok Sevens and Junior Boks (Under-20s) as well as administering or collaborating in multiple club tournaments. It manages rugby's commercial and broadcast interests and is a member of the sport's global governing body, World Rugby. SARU was established in 1992 as the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU), from the merger of the South African Rugby Board and the non-racial South African Rugby Union and assumed its current name in 2005.