Chiefs not ready to take private bids - NZRU

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
Steve Tew
Photosport
STEVE TEW: "We now have much improved governance arrangements in place to ensure the board can focus on making the best decision in the interests of the Chiefs."

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Expression of interest in franchise licence received, Evan Pegden writes. 

The Chiefs have been told to get their governance in order before a private bid for the Super Rugby franchise licence will be considered.

The New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday announced it had awarded a licence to manage the Hurricanes franchise to a Wellington group and agreed in principle to a private licence arrangement to operate the Crusaders franchise - both for next season.

The NZRU also indicated the Blues required more time to consolidate a bid for their operating licence but expected the bid to be submitted to allow for the licence to be issued for 2014.

With the Highlanders never included in the NZRU's call for expressions of interest for licences to manage and operate New Zealand-based Super Rugby teams back in March, that leaves the Chiefs the only franchise with no obvious plans on the horizon.

However, the national body said yesterday an initial expression of interest had been received for the Chiefs.

"However, it is disappointing the Chiefs were not able to finalise a bid," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.

A new commercially focused Chiefs board appointed by the NZRU for the next six months has been tasked with getting the rugby franchise operating effectively enough to capitalise on the great success the Chiefs enjoyed this year on and off the field and in order for a consortium bid for its licence to be considered by the New Zealand union.

"Before we consider a fresh bid, it is critical that the franchise is operating effectively," Tew said.

"We now have much improved governance arrangements in place to ensure the board can focus on making the best decision in the interests of the Chiefs."

The board was previously considered too provincial union-oriented and all six board members are now appointed by the New Zealand union with just two of them having provincial union connections.

Previous Chiefs board chairman, Hamilton's Dallas Fisher, confirmed the new board of himself and another sitting member Matthew Boyd, plus newcomers Phil Harris, Brian King, Jeremy Curragh and Jon Mayson had not yet met and would not have its first meeting until Monday, December 3.

Harris, the new chairman of the Waikato Rugby Union, and Curragh, the former chief executive of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, are the directors with connections to provincial unions within the franchise area.

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Of the other newcomers, Mayson is the former chief executive of the Port of Tauranga and King the general manager of Harcourts Hamilton.

Fisher said the new board would have several issues to deal with when it met, including the election of a new chairman.

It would also be fully briefed on where things were at with the Chiefs in terms of both business and the team itself.

"The licence issue and capitalisation will also be on the agenda," he said.

Both the Hurricanes and Crusaders licences have been granted to different mixes of provincial unions and private investment groups, but within the Chiefs region none of the provincial unions, including Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Counties Manukau are seen as being in strong enough financial positions to contribute to a bid for the licence.

Any private investors would get some return for their money.

However, professional sport franchises have never been seen as great money-making models and the backers would likely need to be people doing it to support the region.

- Waikato

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