A storm is brewing for SANZAR over the host of the 15th Super rugby team.
Later this month the South African, New Zealand and Australian unions will discuss where the new team will be based from 2011.
While there has been a suggestion Melbourne will host the new franchise, the reality is far different.
The SARU is fully behind the Port Elizabeth-based Southern Kings winning the spot, while the continual bickering among interested parties in Melbourne has damaged its bid.
For any SANZAR decision there must be unanimous agreement and NZRU CEO Steve Tew admitted there was the potential for negotiations to break down if the ARU and SARU refused to budge from supporting the teams in their countries.
”We’ve raised that issue with our colleagues,” Tew told Auckland’s Sunday News. ”Both countries have assured us that they will make an assessment based on the facts and decide based on what’s in the best interest of SANZAR.
”At this point in time we have no reason or option but to take their word for it. I’m looking forward to that meeting.
”There is a default mechanism in our contract for the joint venture, which is to go to a commercial mediator or arbitrator ultimately.
”Our view is that we wouldn’t be doing our duty if we didn’t manage to get a decision in the room.
”But in the end it won’t be New Zealand that causes that, it will be one of the other two parties. We will clearly make a decision on what we think is the right decision.
”We’ve got both bids now, we’ve studied them carefully, it’s now a matter of getting together and seeing where the decision-making process leads.”
The new franchise will play in the Australian conference but that doesn’t mean it has to be based there and when SARU put forward its 60-page bid document a fortnight ago, its acting managing director Andy Marinos believed they had a compelling case. We have put together a strong and sustainable business plan based on realistic sponsorship and attendance projections,” Marinos said.
”In addition, the Kings’ bid is not a case of having to reinvent the wheel – they can be operational very quickly. They have a ready audience, a fantastic stadium and a rich heritage of rugby.”
Marinos also staunchly refuted the widely held suggestion that Melbourne had already won the race. ”That is far from the case,” he said.
”SANZAR has to make a decision that makes rugby sense and business sense and the Southern Kings fills both criteria. Even the claims that it makes logistical sense to be based in Australia do not stack up to close examination – the Kings would have only one more match overseas than does a South African franchise at the moment.”
Those comments suggest an almighty bun fight is on the cards and could cause further damage to a SANZAR relationship that was severely tested over how a new Super 15 season would be structured.
Negotiations turned so sour that SARU made noises about pulling out of SANZAR.
A solution could be for SANZAR to accept a majority decision on this one rather than unanimous.
”We suggested that at the last meeting,” Tew said. ”But South Africa in particular said ‘no’.”