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Expanding NZ horizons for cash


The Kiwis are looking at expanding the Super15 to the US and Asia to solve their financial woes.

After having close to $80 million safely banked in 2005, the New Zealand Rugby Union’s reserves are now down to $35m and there is no more pressing issue than boosting income.

By Gregor Paul, NZ Herald

Invading foreign markets remains the preferred route – from 2014, expect to hear talk of Super Rugby expansion into the United States and Asia that will form part of an integrated strategy to help these nations build a sustainable presence on the world stage.

Altruism is not the driver – the NZRU wants to access the corporate machinery of these massive economies but has finally realised that, to do that, it will need to do more than just drop the All Blacks in for occasional tests.

If the US, Japan and wider parts of Asia are to become serious rugby nations, then the NZRU is going to have to provide them with players, coaches and intellectual capital.

The NZRU accepts that it needs a new big idea, a more integrated commercial strategy that brings a massive boost in revenue – money needed to keep players here.

The NZRU’s last big idea was to play Bledisloe Cup tests offshore at neutral venues.

It didn’t really work – a moderate success in 2008, the income returned from Tokyo in 2009 was less and last year the Hong Kong test was lucky to break even.

Last week’s announcement about the revamped Bledisloe where a third test will be played in Australia in 2012 and in New Zealand in 2013 confirmed that the neutral venue option has been canned for now.

It will come again from 2014 but, when it does, it will be part of an integrated package that will see more than just a one-off test being played offshore.

If Asia and the US are ever to become genuine commercial markets for the NZRU, then they need to have a Super Rugby presence.

Sending the All Blacks in for one-off tests hasn’t proven a successful means of engaging a new audience; of growing fan, broadcast or sponsor interest in Asia.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says Super Rugby expansion into these territories remains on the agenda and will climb higher if and when the South Africans get the go-ahead to enter the Southern Kings.

The Kings could come on board as early as 2013 and it will create issues for the balance of the competition.

The conference system will be further compromised if the South Africans have six teams and the Australian and New Zealand formats, five.

Neither New Zealand nor Australia has the player resources to cater for a sixth team and the former would certainly be challenged trying to find corporate sponsors.

If there is to be expansion, it has to be offshore – a team based in Asia and or the US.

The US, in particular, has made giant strides in the past five years. A recent survey showed it is the fastest growing rugby nation in the world and is likely to have more than 100,000 registered players by the end of the year.

US Rugby chairman Kevin Roberts, a former NZRU board member, is convinced that the NZRU and other major nations have to start forging closer and structured relationships with his organisation.

“Commercially, rugby’s future is in the US,” says Roberts. “All of the IRB major sponsors have business interests in the US. USA Rugby is developing professionally and sensibly but obviously is restrained in terms of its pace of growth by economic realities.

“What we need is access to a superior competition and until we can start playing in either Super Rugby, (via a West Coast franchise), the Magners League (East Coast), or the Six Nations (funded partially by the IRB), then it will be difficult for us to progress at the pace the game needs.”

Much of the next two years will be spent trying to establish the detail of any expansion and determining how flexible the national body can be. Ideas such as allowing young New Zealanders to play for a US or Japanese franchise but remaining eligible for the All Blacks have already been floated.

The Rebels have shown it’s possible to build a team with an almost equal mix of local and imported talent. It has worked in Melbourne, so why not Los Angeles, Boston, or Tokyo?

Rather than have promising talent head to Europe and kill their All Black dreams, why not allow them to be well-paid marquee players in the US in a competition the All Black selectors watch and remain eligible for their country?

The NZRU could also insist on having coaching and medical control of any US or Japanese franchise.

NZRU total revenue has been largely static since 2006, yet the All Blacks have played more tests. The existing model is running to a standstill.

Without an improved commercial strategy, the national game here will be in danger of being swamped by Europe and Japan, where the game is now underpinned by an indestructible financial base.

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  1. Feeding the money monster.
    Here comes a Super20 and a 15 month season.
    Teams playing twice a week.
    Matches decided over 60 minutes.
    The sky is the limit for the greedy.
    :Boertjie GOM:

  2. Bwahahah I the challenge of the Visionary !!!

    The Visionary have to move sooo slow and tread sooo softly (not to evoke FEAR) that it becomes nearly always impossible for a visionary to ‘tread water’ until the establishment wake up to the potential of the future.

    Thee a funny thing (sad really) happens – when circumstances FORCE the establishment to move and change – they hail themselves as the visionaries – pathetic really !!!

    On this arti – who was the Visionary?
    Who rolled out the only blueprint for financial future of rugby in NZ, Aus and SA?
    Who was blasted as f*ucd-up – looney – unrealistic?

    Tony Mckeever of course !!!

    This is his blueprint of YWO YEARS ago FFS !!!

  3. Bwahahahahahahahah Brand

    Great one!

    Just a curve ball

    Did the NZRU not have the chance to do this three years ago when the country to host 2011 RWC was between arrogant Kiwis and Japan?

    And the Kiwis pulled in every favour to ensure the gfame went to some obscure specks of rock in the Southern Pacific?

  4. Now all the grandiose ideas of pulling in the Pacific Isles are out of the window.
    No cash to be had there.

  5. Yes DavidS

    Stole WC from Japan – NOW they flap around.

    Wonder if Japan with shaft them properly?

    Boertjie spot on
    They were always only interested in raping the Island of their PRODUCTS.

    NZ same as Aus !!!

  6. I wonder if Tony reads this what emotions is going on inside.

    But yet again the fokkol visionaries don’t see the future.
    They are so blinded by money NOW that they still miss the future.

    What about the Islands, what about South America (specifically Brazil).

    Fok them THEY don’t have enough money !!!

    The more I think about this the more pissed-off I get.

    To think these fokkers and SA Rugby effectively blocked McKeever – arseholes !!!

  7. Even if Tony’s – real professional teams – might have been playing at ‘lower’ levels – it would/will still be an exellent trail-run and expansion of current rugby bases.

    They “threat” posed by REALLY professional teams NOT FULLY under control through rugby-politics by the Home Unions – the “Rebel-Teams” could never be allowed!!!

    So they rather killed the idea.
    NOW they want to engage the Unions they have purposely shafted for ages – only use all the time and even now – was to rape them of their resources !!!

  8. Willem yes yes yes!!!

    Cut S15 to S12 – 4 teams each Union – with promotion-relegation facing each bottom team in a Union.

    With the 5th teams competing against a ‘Pampas’ ‘Eagles’ Japanese Brazilian and Island-composite teams.

    And after a year or two add the top ‘extra’ team to S12 in promo-relegation of last team of Union with two bottom most teams!

    The Pampas was a fairly-tale success this year – expand the mix – and add more International flavor to Super’B’

  9. Thinking about the extra teams – Willem.

    Yes missed China – I would add compo-African team as well.

    Expose those players to 4-5 months of ‘International’ play, coaching, systems and have them give that back into home Unions.

    Would be interesting to follow changes Pampas have on Arg rugby in future!!!

  10. Brand… excuse me for being bitter… but there were certain consequences of that little experience that affect my life to this day financially…

    Shoot the message?


    The messenger…

    There aren’t enough bullets in the world…

  11. Super rugby cannot grow much more.

    Nobody watch games among B division teams.

    The visionary’s visions are just random ideas unless they become reality.

  12. on international rugby:
    from the IRB.com

    Austria – biggest climbers

    The other changes to the IRB World Rankings came as a result of matches in the European Nations Cup 2012 with Austria enjoying the biggest climb of the week – four places to 80th – after beating Denmark 23-16 in Division 2C.

    Austria’s win lifts them above Swaziland, St Lucia, Guam and Bulgaria, the latter falling despite edging Finland 12-10 in Division 2D. The cost of defeat at home by a side 22 places below them proved costly for Denmark, who plummet eight places to 62nd.

    Another Scandinavian country on the slide were Norway, who fall four places to 89th following a 15-3 loss to Israel in the other Division 2C match on Saturday. Israel, confirmed as the Divisional champions for 2010/11, themselves climb three places to 68th.

    Latvia were the only other side to suffer a fall in the IRB World Rankings, dropping three places to 60th as a result of the loss at home against Sweden with Malaysia, Venezuela and Andorra the beneficiaries.

    There were also four matches in Division IV of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2011, although none had any impact on the IRB World Rankings because none of the participants are Full Member Unions of the IRB and therefore not ranked.

  13. Timeo – that is why it needs to be “A teams” from each country/region – so they may pit their strengths against ‘equal’ opposition.

    I am a sport fanatic – watching bowl/darts/snooker give me same though different experiences as watching rugby!!!

    Watching the Pampas was just as special as watching the Crusaders and loads more than watching the Bulls this season.

    So who are second tier?

    Don’t play “B teams” or make it a “B comp”.

    Make it worthwhile for the top 4 in each conference to stop mucking around and deliver top-class rugby week in week out!

    As it stands now – so what – so what you end last on log. It seems sponsors are happy “enough” to have a team in compo.
    Really they don’t get MORE coverage because they sponsor the best – hahaha – maybe it only cost them more money.

    Stop mediocrity as at Lions and Cheethas – Force – Chiefs – give them something more than National colours to play for – give them the opportunity to stay alive in comp. Play regulation-games across the board

  14. And when you play relegation – play best of three home – away and neutral if need be.

    Regulation-games – hahaha that is what we see week in week out at most Super games.

  15. Reply to The Brand @ 2:33 pm:

    94 official teams on the ranking list of the IRB. How it works with the rest I am not 100% sure but imagine it comes down to a limit of tests played a year to qualify.

    For example the teams that are mentioned in my earlier post are teams like Qatar, Lebanon etc. I asume they do not play in an IRB structured competition or do not play enough to get a ranking.

  16. so is anyone gonna tell me how kahui runs over our hero bok starting 12 and not a single article suggest its a problem?

    Is Grant still Naas’ favorite to start or was that some premature speculative bullocks?

    Was at the Bloem game. Amazing to see how players commit to Sarel Pretorius. He is now the kind of super sub you want.

  17. Reply to The Brand @ 2:24 pm:

    I think P/R is a crock. A P/R game is mostly a waste of time since the B division team almost always loose.
    That’s why automatic P/R is more popular these days.
    The problem with automatic P/R is that creates a 2 tier A division. Those who play to win and those play to stay.

    English soccer is a good example of this.
    Last I checked only 4 out of 21 teams have won it. Super rugby has 6 out of 14 teams that ended top of the log. 10 teams have made it to the final.

    Super rugby has done very well without P/R.

    Which teams have never been last?
    Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Stormers, Brumbies & Waratahs

    How many teams have never among the bottom 4?

    Which teams have never been amongst the top 4?
    Force Cheetahs (new teams!)

    Players always have something to play for: A better salary.

  18. I think the idea that the NZRU can make money from a team in the USA is a fairy tale also.

    To create a viable team will take a massive amount of upfront cash that the NZRU do not have. If they get a rich investor to front the cash he is not going to want to ship all his profits back to them. What do they have to offer? Players, coaches, expertise. If you have money you can get those anyway.

    Currently the games in NZ start between 1AM and 4AM East Coast time (10PM – 1AM Pacific). Pretty much impossible to watch live. To get a US TV audience for games in NZ they will have to schedule them earlier and risk loosing their South African and European audiences.

  19. McKeeever’s theory was that you would NOT base teams in NZ or SA but primarily in Europe and the USA, thus the inconvenienced ones would be them and not the Yanks…

    But I agree that the idea of having rugby as a marketing tool in the USA by playing is a joke.

    It did not work for soccer and the attempt to introduce franbchsed NFL to Europe via a similar system of European city teams similarly failed…

    Rugby is not bright enough to do this in the USA except if it does so via the traditional avenues…. as in let us use it at schools and at universities

  20. The problem with everyone outside the United States is that they simply fail to understand how big the USA is and how difficult it is to create a competitive product in a market where everyone competes for everything and there is no real governmental intervention and you’d be one of a thousand other products desperately attempting to win a place in the US market with its already overtaxed consumers.

  21. Timeo thanks for insight on P/R. Hehehe just when I thought I ‘know it’

    I am just getting gatvol of same o same o of SupeRugby – new systems also does not ‘do’ it for me!

    The rugby is not improving IMO – just the same.

    I am not a single team supporter – so I get my thrills following rugby from individual brilliance and teams improving (like the Reds this season)

    Without external pressure it seems to me teams have very little to perform for – being in Super rugby seems reward enough!!!

  22. Hi all, here our game of the 30/4… RC Innsbruck in White/Blue

    We tried to play our structure but it is tough when things go your way the way it did here!
    1st half:

  23. Reply to The Brand @ 9:19 pm:

    I hear what you say. Perhaps just too much rugby.
    Fan fatigue. Will the rugby improve if the fan takes a break? Good idea for a study. Pass it on to Tim Noakes.

    Perhaps many of the best players are just trying to get through it without injury.

  24. Reply to The Brand @ 12:26 pm:

    Agreed with all of that… the reality is the logistical cost is far too expensive for that latter comp…

    Just back to the S15… I’ve been enjoying this year’s more than many I can remember despite the extra games and new format…

  25. DavidS is right. They have tried to force feed soccer to the US for decades and it has succeeded – as a little kid game only. No way US fans will coo and awe at the nuance of a 1-0 or 0-0 game of kick ball. It’s very competitive. NHL Hockey gets lower ratings than girls NBA basketball!

    Only way rugby can get interest is by using the cut or college heros – pros zeros and throwing them in a team. They can come from basket or football. There would be an amazing level of interest and coverage to see how “so and so” turned out in “football without pads”. It would be cheap also. You should see the to -doo when one of these guys try out at UFC. Not sure if he is current but Brock Lesnar was a heavyweight champ at UFC and while he played college football, he was cut and did not make an NFL team he tried out for.
    These guys are still very gifted they just had their run or did not fit in the pro grinder for one reason or another. They would sign for pennies – if they did not have this to do they would be looking at being a doorman ant a tavern. That’s the angle – though the nimrods from NZ that call the shots for USA rugby still seem to think their approach will work if given the needed amount of time – 100 years.

  26. Reply to Americano @ 6:52 am:

    Brock Lesnar was not much of a footballer… but was an All-American Collegiate wrestling champ…

    The hype behind him entering the UFC came from years on the WWE circuit… for the record it took 3 fights for him to claim the HW title… but was smashed by Cain Velasquez… amazing speed and agility Brock has though…

    I do get your point… in fact many of the current and past crop of Seppo rugby players are/were former NFL players…

  27. Reply to bryce_shark_in_oz @ 7:32 am:

    Hershell Walker is a more successful ex-footballer who has made the move to MMA… albeit at 40-odd he’s never going to be a contender for the Strikeforce title… but the fan-fare has been good for the brand…

  28. Bryce,
    You’re right about Lesnar-with WWF and college wrestling not football. The overall point as witnessed by Hershell Walker also is that the USA media / fan coverage and interest was massively disproportionate to what was really deserved (Walker being 40+ and zero chance of title contention). The ONLY reason for the interest is due to the fact that everyone knew Walker from NFL. Same with Lesnar and WWF – he also got massive coverage when he was in the NFL Minn. Viking camp…and then cut.
    To get US rugby to leapfrog all this grass roots 30 year plan stuff all they need is some foreign players in a side and seed it with former NFL types that may catch on given they have the physical attributes already.
    It would create a week in week out media storm where folks would want to see the former college star the or NFL/NBA star (no old guys like Walker) that got hard done play football “without the pads”.

  29. What is “Seppo” rugby ?

    I’ve never heard of it. I have heard of some former NFL types playing rugby but the quality of those types as NFL players was really suspect. There was quite a to-do here about a guy playing for the US 7’s that formerly played for the Chicago Bears. In actuality, he “Made” the team technically – but was only on the practice squad and did not suit for games – just practice. That’s not the name cache nor athletic level I’m looking for to make a splash really.

    I think that if this really was toyed with a bit, the big surprise would be that the real talent is found more in the basketball area then the football area. I really don’t think it will ever come to pass though.

    Just a thought, but I’m of the opinion that the big prop of the Cheetahs would be a fantastic NFL project at offensive guard.

  30. Reply to Americano @ 1:17 am:

    Lol… ‘Seppo’ is a derogatory term Australians have for Americans (Septic Tank- Yank)…

    Coenie is pretty darn big… but jeez some of those offensive guards are even bigger (taller)… Guys like Wyatt Crockett and Mackintosh from the Kiwi front rows could probably get there (both North of 6ft4 and 120kgs and mobile)…

    I agree on getting those ‘missed the cut’ players into Seppo Rugby and their ‘draw-card’ value…

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