Embattled provincial unions may be in for a financial leg-up from the New Zealand Rugby Union next year on the back of a better-than-budgeted profit.
And the All Blacks might get a less strenuous test schedule in the buildup to the next World Cup as the pressure eases slightly on the union's purse strings.
It's been a tough few years for the country's unions, with spiralling player wage bills, falling gates and a lean sponsorship market cutting into the coffers.
However, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew has indicated help could be at hand on the back of big international deals with AIG and adidas, both in foreign currency and hedged at favourable rates.
"We are going to have a better-than-budgeted profit which we'll announce in the new year and not just courtesy of AIG, but other good work that's been done around test matches and other things," Tew said yesterday.
"We've upped the ante in terms of our global commercial reach with the AIG deal and that's locked and loaded a very significant portion of our income right through to 2018.
"While things remain challenging for everyone across the game, it is worth noting that the New Zealand Rugby Union has a significant percentage of its short-term income now contracted.
"That gives us a lot more confidence than a lot of other organisations in the country."
Combined with the revenue-gathering tests against Australia in Brisbane and England at Twick- enham, a healthy profit for the 2012 financial year is expected in the new year.
Tew confirmed the NZRU was looking at its policy around cash reserves, previously seen as a rainy-day emergency fund.
"We will review our reserves policy . . . locking in our income - it's timely to sit back and say what is the cash balance the NZRU needs."
The union reported cash reserves last year as $25.3 million and rising, and any unlocking of those funds will be welcome news in the provinces.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen might benefit too.
The big loss to England at Twickenham was seen by many as evidence the test season had gone one step too far and Tew confirmed there had already been discussions about the workload.
"The thing about the extra games is we are able to sit back now and say what's the best rugby outcome from an extra game," he said. "We can make the decisions based on what's best for the team rather than having to take the money thing into account."
Meanwhile, Tew said negotiations around a new collective agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association were unlikely to be completed before the end of the year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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