Japan test provides healthy profit for NZRU
The New Zealand Rugby Union today revealed it made a surprising $850,000 profit from the All Blacks' one-off test in Japan last year.
At the time, with concerns around player welfare a hot topic, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew was forced to defend the additional match, frequently stressing the fact the test was not a money making venture.
But after reviewing figures, Tew today said a combination of gate revenue from the 27,000 crowd at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, broadcasting, sponsorship and hospitality had contributed to the healthy taking, which boosted the organisation's overall annual profit to $2.9 million.
The All Blacks won the forgettable test 54-6.
"We didn't embark on the Japanese test to make a profit," Tew said.
"We had an initial agreement with Japanese rugby to cover our costs. We genuinely chose to run that game because [All Blacks coach] Steve Hansen wanted a match on the way to Europe and a chance to give some of the younger players a run.
"The Japanese rugby union did a very good job and we benefitted more than we had anticipated. It was much more successful than we thought it might have been. We had a profit share situation set up and that was our share of it.
"Equally, we would have been happy to have our costs covered. We were out to cover Steve's planning, not ours."
Tew confirmed the NZRU were close to agreeing to play a match against the United States in Chicago, on route to the traditional end of year tour destinations.
"We're not far away," he said. "We'd like to have that announcement in the next few weeks. We aren't yet able to make an announcement because there's still some details to be tied up."
Despite the financial success of the Japanese test, Tew was taking a conservative approach towards the game in the USA.
"We will go there to cover costs and then be in a position where we can benefit from the game being profitable. The initial decision to have a game there has to be made by USA rugby. They've got to be confident they can make it work."
Tew also reiterated there were no plans for the All Blacks to play in the Pacific Islands before next year's World Cup.
In the wake of the sleeping pill saga, the NZRU had begun surveying coaches, physiotherapists, trainers and chief executives to gauge the severity of the issue. Players were not included as their views may not be truthful.
"We've had a very good return rate on that survey and we're now pulling that information together," he said. "It's difficult to ask players to be totally honest about things they may not be pleased to be discussing. We're not aware of a significant issue currently, but we'd be crazy not to have a decent look and make sure."
In the build-up to sevens' debut in the Olympic Games at Rio in 2016, the NZRU had also experienced "three or four" cases of players requesting an option to participate in the coveted event.
"It is definitely on some player's mind.
"A number of players as they've been negotiating their contracts have brought the Olympic opportunity up. A number have made a specific request that if they decide to be eligible and were selected they could compete.
"The majority of XVs players who would go to Rio would need to commit for the season. Their unlikely to play in the Super Rugby competition. There may be one or two exceptions. To be successful at Rio we're going to need a group of players that have competed in sevens for at least a few months."