Player power did not win the day but it has ensured the latest advertising raid on the All Black jersey was "cut down to size".
All Blacks fans have the players to thank for insisting that the AIG logo is not as overwhelming on this jersey as it is for the other New Zealand teams.
The NZ Rugby Union announced a sponsorship deal with the multinational insurance company yesterday, which will mean the company's name will be emblazoned across the front of all New Zealand teams jerseys from this weekend to May 2018.
But there is a big difference from the All Blacks jersey to that of the NZ Sevens, Black Ferns, Maori All Blacks and NZ Under-20 jerseys, in that the logo is smaller and there is no box around it.
Keven Mealamu yesterday revealed the All Blacks jersey was supposed to have the same logo as the others but the players fought against it.
"When Steve Tew came into the room with the leaders of the All Blacks I remember how quiet it was when it dawned on us," Mealamu said. "When we saw the size of it and the box we thought it was too big for the jersey.
"So it's nice that they were respectful and able to take the box off and keep it to the size it is now. I am pleased we were able to come to that compromise and can really respect the jersey like that."
Mealamu said the senior players understood that these days in professional sport it was common to have a front-of-jersey sponsor but they insisted the All Blacks jersey should never be tarnished.
"This is a jersey that means a lot to us and to the people of New Zealand," he said.
"We didn't want to make a rash decision and say this is the way it is, we wanted to make sure we put some good thought processes into it and that it was the right thing to do."
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew wouldn't reveal how much the AIG deal was worth but said it was close to the money they get from Adidas. This is believed to be about $20 million a year.
"From the best information that we can gather, the Adidas deal is the biggest rugby deal in the world," said Tew.
"The money Australia get from Kooga and Qantas combined or England get from O2 and Canterbury combined is less than we get just from Adidas.
"We have been able to bring AIG on and retain the Adidas income and got close to getting a similar amount of money.
"We were planning on quite a large deficit next year because we haven't got a high-earning Bledisloe Cup test or an England test.
"So now we've got the comfort of what we'd normally do in 2013 without taking a significant hit on the balance sheet and we'll take time to consider what it means going forward."
Given the perilous state some of the provincial unions are in, it wouldn't be surprising if some of them come cap in hand to the NZRU, looking to benefit from this windfall.
However, Tew said they were not keen on bailing out struggling unions.
"This should not change our view with how we deal with that," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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