Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union Inc were "absolutely elated" to announce a $713,579 profit for 2020 at their annual meeting on Tuesday, having projected a $1.5 million loss during the heart of level 4 Covid lockdown last year.
Finance committee chairman Craig Riddiford said it was a great result given those projections.
"We were very nervous right in the middle of lockdown, preparing for the worst," he said.
CEO Jay Campbell said the union was "absolutely elated" with the result.
"It was down to a lot of really hard work by the staff and the board here," he added.
"We've still got challenges ahead, so we've just got to keep heading on through."
The projected loss was based on the prospect of losing key revenue streams through having no Mitre 10 Cup in 2020, and saw the union cut staffing costs and at lot of the programmes it offered.
"We realise we can't carry on with the reduced costs that we've had, we need to invest back in the community game," Riddiford said.
With costs going back up, the Union is projecting a $181,000 loss for 2021.
"We've been very conservative, we can only work with what we've got. There's still a lot of uncertainty around that income," Riddiford said.
Part of the forecasting accounts for a possible dip in the performance of the Hawke's Bay Magpies in the 2021 National Provincial Championship.
"We're working on real conservative crowd numbers, so we can't guarantee the same result. Obviously we would like to and we're doing our best to do that."
Game income went up from $347,565 in 2019 to $637,512 in 2020, with big increases in match income from Magpies ticket sales (up $87,514) and hospitality (up $201,895).
Campbell said the 2020 figure is even more impressive if it is considered that no tickets were sold for the game against Counties Manukau under Covid restrictions, as well as fans being given free entry for the Championship semifinal against Taranaki.
"That probably shows the real pull and love of the [Ranfurly] Shield that there is here in Hawke's Bay," he said.
The Magpies lead the entire Mitre 10 Cup in total round robin attendance with 50,700 fans coming through the gates in 2020.
However Campbell said they can't bank on the same results this year.
"That's sport right, you don't really know, or you can't really plan anything more than your next game," he said.
"All we know is we've got one Ranfurly Shield game, then we may not have it."
Campbell added that recent community Covid outbreaks have shown how unsettled everything will be this year as well, and the union will have to play the hand it is dealt.
"We've now got this surplus, this money that if things get tight we can rely on that," he said.
"Currently as it stands we think we're trucking along pretty well, but as 2020 showed us we have to be prepared for all contingencies."
Sponsorship income from commercial partners went down from $1,936,644 in 2019 to $1,728,815 in 2020, but Riddiford said that result was a lot more than what they had budgeted for.
"The local community does support us, and we're extremely grateful for that, and we definitely couldn't do it without them," he said.
Campbell added the support from commercial partners is still holding this year so far, even though there is not yet clarity on what the 2021 NPC will look like:
"At this stage things are looking bright, but we can't get too ahead of ourselves."
Grants to the union from New Zealand Rugby were down from $1,777,465 in 2019 to $1,507,255 in 2020.
The national body has indicated HBRFU will receive another $239,000 less in 2021, representing a 28.6 per cent reduction from 2019.