The salaries of elite All Blacks are about to be boosted.
Star players such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Conrad Smith can earn playing salaries up to $600,000 a season but their wage is set to grow.
It could push the playing wages of top All Blacks close to the $750,000 a season mark with the very best now easily commanding in excess of $1 million a year once personal sponsorship deals are added.
The pay increase will come as a result of the All Blacks gaining a bigger slice of the New Zealand Rugby Union's commercial riches, including the multimillion-dollar AIG jersey deal.
On the back of the AIG sponsorship deal the NZRU posted a $3.2 million profit this year - its first for five years - and the elite players will benefit accordingly.
Increasing the pay of the men in black is also one of four key changes proposed in rugby's new collective agreement, which is only weeks away from being signed off.
All parties involved have been sworn to secrecy over the 130-page document which will form the pillars of New Zealand rugby for the next three years. It has been sent out to the 14 provincial unions as part of a ratification process expected to take until the end of next month.
The Sunday Star-Times can reveal the changes being suggested.
They include reducing the salary cap for the national provincial championship, significantly boosting compensation for unions with contracted All Blacks, decreasing the maximum NPC player salary, and increasing top-tier All Blacks' pay packets.
The NPC salary cap is currently $1.35m or 36 per cent of a province's revenue.
Reducing it would create a more even market for contracting players and better distribute talent throughout the country.
That move will be greeted positively by smaller unions who have long complained about financially strong provinces closely aligned to Super Rugby franchises "hoarding" players.
Those heavyweight provinces, mainly Wellington, Auckland and reigning five-time champions Canterbury, may have gripes with the proposal as it has the potential to weaken their stocks.
Reducing the salary cap is not likely to have a drastic impact across the board, however. Only five provinces are understood to be regularly reaching the limit.
A reduction is also intended as a safeguard against unions spending beyond their means, with Otago's close shave with insolvency last year cited as a prime example.
The New Zealand Rugby Union will be keen to avoid any further bailout packages which in the case of Otago included two All Blacks tests, a $250,000 grant, and $500,000 loan.
Provinces are currently reimbursed up to $35,000 per contracted All Black but that does not foot the whole bill.
Under the new deal, the NZRU will cover the full salary.
New Zealand's top-tier players can command a maximum of $60,000 a season at NPC level.
If approved, that will be reduced, allowing unions to spread their wages evenly and reward players who feature for most of the nine-week NPC campaign.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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