Knowles pushes for longer season

23:00, Nov 19 2012

In an ideal world, Manawatu would like the ITM Cup campaign expanded by two weeks, perhaps with an extra week at the start and end.

Chief executive John Knowles has led a drive to get games back to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

But he is not banking his life savings on it happening with Sky TV understood to be happy with the Tuesday and Wednesday night games played this season.

"I can see it being difficult to achieve," Knowles said.

He put out a conference call to other chief executives to test the waters and felt they all were thinking the same way.

They want a bigger turnaround between games. Manawatu's playing season stretched only six weeks and 18 days this year.


If the New Zealand Rugby Union get the vibes, they might add a week to the schedule. Manawatu want to retain the semifinal in the Championship division because it kept the Turbos with something to play for right through the season.

Most of the provinces do not want to be playing rugby into November either.

There are complications. The top players need four weeks of annual leave, after their end-of-season tours, before starting Super Rugby. Then there is the Christmas break which means Super coaches might not see their players until mid-January.

All attendances for games were down this year as provinces found it difficult to entice fans to midweek, night fixtures. Manawatu's gates income alone was down by about $100,000.

"That's a lot of money to take out of a budget," Knowles said. "Any form of erosion of the local scene is very important."

He said there needs to be an environment to suit the paying public.

As it is, Manawatu has only five home games a year and that is the minimum to sell to sponsors, much of which is sold on having live television coverage.

Despite the plunge in gates income, Knowles hopes the union's accounts will break even.

"We should be level pegging. I don't think we'll be in the negative."

The union is to put the house it has built at the Grand Oaks Drive subdivision at Awapuni Racecourse on the market with a launch tomorrow afternoon.

Knowles has also been putting contracts in front of Turbos players' agents while trying to carve expenditure out of player payments too.

Manawatu had off-season talks with wing-fullback Andre Taylor but his agent has confirmed he will again be signing with Taranaki.

The Manawatu Standard