Provincial rugby union accounts holding up well

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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All provincial rugby unions are on target to avoid financial losses for 2013.

Despite the majority of national provincial championship matches being marred by poor attendances and unions continuing to trade in a challenging commercial market, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew is optimistic the provincial accounts won't be blotted with red ink.

"At the end of the third quarter all 26 of the provincial unions are looking at a modest or better profit. So we should have no unions losing money in 2013," Tew said.

"Clearly the year is not over but normally, at this point, they are reasonably accurate. If that comes to fruition it would be very pleasing indeed."

Earlier this year the NZRU declared the overall salary cap was being reduced from $1.35 million to $1.025 million by 2015. The NZRU also reduced the maximum retainer for players by $5000 to $55,000.

But the reality is many of the smaller unions don't spend that much on players' wages anyway.

Tasman, who won promotion to the NPC premiership after beating Hawke's Bay in the championship final, only spent around $730,000 this season.

The NZRU are also confident of delivering a national financial performance well above their budgeted profit of $800,000.

Tew was less certain about what sort of Super Rugby format for 2016, and beyond, would be presented by the Sanzar partners to the broadcasters in June.

Initial hopes Sanzar would agree on a proposal before the new year haven't materialised. Other than confirming South Africa would get a sixth team and Argentina were certain to have a side included, Tew said the complicated project was far from completed.

He didn't eliminate the prospect of Japan, who would host the World Cup in 2019, having a team added but said the next cycle may come too early.

"Whether it is the next phase of the development of this competition I'm not so sure. We haven't dismissed it, as we haven't dismissed the possibility of interest from other parts of the Asia-Pacific basin."

The NZRU were still eager to play a test on the United States' east coast in early November but other than discounting the prospect of playing the Wallabies, he said nothing was decided.

Negotiating with a country that can get players released outside the IRB test "window" may prove crucial to determining whether they meet a tier-one nation or a weaker side like the United States.

"If we play a tier-one nation then you change the economics of the game substantially," Tew acknowledged. "And as a first step into the American market that might be a bit of a stretch."

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Meanwhile, although the IRB recently commissioned a "working party" to investigate how the northern and southern hemisphere seasons could be better aligned, the prospect of a global season seems as distant as ever.

Tew, though, was confident the IRB's chief executive Brett Gosper was better placed than his predecessor Mike Miller to make a difference.

- The Press

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