Crusaders contemplate bigger rewards in Pacific Islands


A Fijian school welcomes the Chiefs ahead of their Friday night clash with the Crusaders in Suva.

Relocating a Crusaders game to the Pacific Islands is worth investigating, Hamish Riach says.

Crusaders chief executive Riach wouldn't disclose the appearance fee paid by the Chiefs, who for a second consecutive season have switched their "home" game against the Crusaders to Suva, but clearly his organisation could potentially gain more cash if they followed their Super Rugby rivals' lead and hosted a fixture in the Pacific Islands.

The Blues will also play a game against the Reds in Apia, Samoa, on June 2.

About 20,000 fans endured the wet weather to watch the Chiefs beat the Crusaders 23-13 in Suva last year.

About 20,000 fans endured the wet weather to watch the Chiefs beat the Crusaders 23-13 in Suva last year.

"Yes, I think we would contemplate it," Riach said on the issue of playing a "home" game outside New Zealand. "There are a lot of things to weigh up.

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"When taking a home game away, there are more things to think about. Not the least are the commitments in Christchurch, and the opportunity to take games to the regions.

"It is kind of a no-brainer for an away game [from the Crusaders' perspective], because it is all upside for us.

"The primary driver is financial, remembering that when we play an away game in Hamilton we have no financial connotations with that game at all. So by coming here, and receiving a fee to come, it is a very attractive."

It is expected the Chiefs have again received a financial incentive from the Fijian government, which contributed about $1.6 million to help cover costs at ANZ Stadium last year.

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About 20,000 people attended that fixture, ensuring the Chiefs made more money from the venture than they would have from playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Waikato Stadium.

It is understood the financial model was based on averaging out the yield of the stadium for five years, and then doubling it.

In addition to having to choose a country to play a match, the Crusaders would have to consider a variety of other factors.

A return to Fiji would need to be balanced against the possibility that the novelty factor has began to fade after two Super Rugby games had been staged there in as many seasons, and whether Nelson, particularly, and Timaru – both sit within the Crusaders' catchment – can be overlooked.

Riach acknowledged the Crusaders had to be proactive in this market. They had hoped to play the Hurricanes in Suva in 2015, but senior All Blacks from both teams spiked the idea because they didn't want additional travel in a World Cup year.

"You can't always just hope or expect you get the benefit of an away game," Riach added. "Someone has got to front up and take their own game to one of those places. We are open to it is as well, but it is slightly more complicated."

The Crusaders, along with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union, this week fired letters to the Christchurch City Council, as part of its draft annual plan process, urging it to start building a new multi-use arena.

If they were to play games elsewhere they may have to be mindful about not fuelling negative views about denying Christchurch a big-ticket event.

As part of the due diligence of playing offshore, teams must also liaise closely with NZ Rugby, Sanzaar, the Players Association and TV broadcaster Sky.

"NZ Rugby and Sanzaar like the idea of Super Rugby in the islands," Riach noted. "There is a lot of interest over here, and a lot of island boys in the Super Rugby teams."

 - Stuff


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