CFL Pass

Home playoff game pays off for Roughriders

The first-ever CFL playoff game at Mosaic Stadium was just the financial boost the Saskatchewan Roughriders needed.

The CFL team realized a profit of $1,467,062 during their 2018-19 fiscal year, thanks in part to the Riders’ on-field performance and playing host to a playoff game for the first time since 2013.

“We’ve often talked about a home playoff game being important to the organization two reasons,” Craig Reynolds, the Riders’ president and CEO, said after Wednesday’s annual general meeting at Mosaic Stadium. “One, it positions you better to win the ultimate goal, which is to win the Grey Cup.

“Secondly, it’s a big boost to the bottom line. You saw this year it was $800,000 to the bottom line that came from hosting a playoff game. That’s why it’s a goal.”

The Riders, who finished second in the West Division with a 12-6 record, played host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West Division semifinal on Nov. 11. The Riders were beaten 23-18 by the Blue Bombers before an announced crowd of 30,609 spectators.

The home playoff game generated $1.8 million in revenues as the Green and White nearly doubled its profit from 2017-18 ($781,930).

Overall, the Riders’ total gross revenues were $40.4 million compared to $37.3 million for the previous fiscal year.

The primary reasons for the increase were the aforementioned home playoff game, higher gate receipts, sponsorships, CFL distributions, Friends of the Riders Lottery and fundraising compared to 2017-18.

Saskatchewan’s operating expenses decreased to $40.4 million in 2018-19 compared to $40.9 million the prior year. The drop was due to savings related to football operations, administration, the ticket office and the difference between home and away playoff games.

Playoff costs were reduced in 2018-19 compared to the previous year when the Roughriders were on the road for the East Division semifinal and final.

“You incur significant costs when you go on the road, especially in 2017 when we crossed over to the East Division,” Reynolds said. “When you play host to a playoff game, you get that revenue.”

Gate receipts totalled a franchise-record $17.2 million in 2018-19 compared to $16.7 million the previous year, which coincided with the first year at new Mosaic Stadium.

Higher game-day sales and a slight increase in ticket prices also accounted for the rise in ducat sales. The Riders led the CFL in average scanned attendance (27,547) and sold tickets (30,357) in 2018.

Merchandise sales increased to $6.8 million from $6.7 million in 2017-18. The sale of men’s and women’s jerseys and strong demand for women’s clothing along with holiday and memorabilia pushed the slight increase.

Sponsorships grew $6.8 million, compared to $6.5 million last year.

The Riders continue to be involved in the community with the franchise having a “direct financial impact on not-for-profit and charitable organizations of $1,609,176.”

Over the year, Riders players visited 87 communities in Saskatchewan, collectively travelling more than 104,423 kilometres while attending 400-plus events.

“It’s a part of securing our future,” Reynolds said. “It’s the way that we give back to the province and to the fans who give so much to us. It’s a way to reach out and connect with youth and to grow amateur football in the province and players who become future fans.”

The community outreach program is based on five categories under the Pass It On brand — health, education, amateur football, community involvement and events in Saskatchewan.

Among the community endeavours supported by the Roughriders are Cameco Riders Touchdowns for Dreams, Imagine No Bullying, Rider Reading Month, the Mamaweyatitan Centre and Rider Block parties.

The Riders and Dream Community Fund helps disperse funds for amateur football capital projects across the province. In 2018-19, the Riders provided support for minor football totalling $58,000.

The Roughriders also provided financial support of $1.2 million to Saskatchewan-based football programs, such as KidSport Saskatchewan, Football Saskatchewan and the Northern Sask Football Camp in La Ronge.

Sales of the Game Day 50/50 raffle raised $336,113, which was distributed to Football Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, University of Regina Rams, Regina Thunder, Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries and Regina Riot.

NOTES: The Riders selected offensive lineman Jake Bennett in Wednesday’s supplemental draft. Bennett’s selection means the Riders have forfeited their third-round pick in the 2020 CFL draft. Bennett was a three-year starter at Colorado State and was a starting centre for the Salt Lake Stallions in the Alliance of American Football before the league folded. Players who were not declared nationals in time for the CFL draft on May 2 fall to the supplemental selection process. Bennett was the only player in this year’s supplemental draft … On Wednesday, the Riders announced the signing of international offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson, who spent the past four seasons with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. Jefferson shared in the 2016 Super Bowl championship with the Broncos … Riders defensive tackle Makana Henry was fined an undisclosed amount by the CFL on Wednesday for “unnecessary contact inside the bench area on Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dominique Davis’’ in last Thursday’s 44-41 loss to Ottawa.