Aussie anguish at All Black AIG deal

Last updated 05:00 18/10/2012
AIG All Blacks

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew sizes up the new All Blacks jersey held gleefully by AIG chief executive Peter Hancock.

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As a boofhead of Australian descent, I am always reluctant to comment on matters of importance relating to our kin from across the Tasman.

However, in this situation, I think it's pretty safe to go on the record with this bombshell: New Zealand rugby fans appear to be somewhat henpecked about the new sponsorship deal for the coveted All Black jersey.

For so long one of the last remaining hidey-holes from commercial intrusion, the All Black jersey will now relinquish its membership in the unstained apparel brotherhood after the NZRU succumbed to the buck and whored out the prized cloth space to multinational elephantine AIG.

Across the ditch, the decision has been met with a fair deal of rotten fruit.

The All Black jersey is recognised in all corners of Earth as a uniquely powerful brand for rugby arse-kicking.

It has relentlessly rucked the back of world rugby's subordinates for 107 long years, and for 95 per cent of this time has done so with the trunk commercial free.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew has defended the decision to flay the kit with the corporate brush, stating that playing rugby is a bloody expensive business with its costly mattress-sized goal post pads and steeply-priced ongoing rights to the feelgood anthem The World in Union, and that the controlling body needs all of the capital support it can get.

Now pardon my lack of smarts, but hasn't partaking in regular big-ticket ruggers been a drain on the purse for eons? So why now is the NZRU holding out the hand for some spare change?

One would immediately assume that the joint is totally impoverished and in need of an immediate injection of capital at all levels, but taking a gander at the NZRU's financial position provides further mystification with the organisation posting a $9.6 million profit last year.

To some, that's 'time to layby a portion of the Cayman Islands', but to Tew it means battening down the hatches for some belt-tightening selling of the soul.

Another possibility is that their football department needs some new toys and a coat of paint, but with the world champion national men's team on a 14-month winning streak and eight points clear on top of the IRB rankings, the Sevens side running second on the current circuit and the women's outfit also reigning world champs, it appears doings are in a fairly golden state of cherry ripeness at ground level with the Gilbert.

In their current climate of near-perfection, a blank cheque for the sports science white-coat brigade or a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art training facility could manifest itself as an increase to the regular winning margin over the Wallabies to 20 points from the usual 17. Is that a reasonable return for the strip's integrity?

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Couldn't Tew just sell a few spare Bledisloes to settle his pecuniary paranoia and keep Richie McCaw's torso free of this mercantile malfeasance?

To make things even more bitter, the selection of sponsor has the Kiwi teeth gnashing like they're in a never ending Dunedin winter, with the choice of a faceless corporation which carries a historical rank spot of financial failure going down like Felix Baumgartner with the faithful.

Surely if the space was going to be flogged off, the keys to the cherished real estate could've gone to an iconic Kiwi brand. As an Australian, we love to emblazon our national teams with booze companies to remind the world we are frequently soused, so why not the equivalent such as a Tui or Steinlager to make a heavenly marriage with the coveted apparel?

Nope, instead the NZRU has opted for a relatively-unknown global money-spinner whose name contains the word 'America'. Weird.

I cringe at the possibility of awkward cross-promotional press conference moments involving some clueless Yankee suits attempting to wax about "The game they play in Hereford" and the commitment to the ongoing success of the "All Blocks".

The fans over the Tasman, some of the most devoted and maniacal on the planet, deserve better. As does the game in the country as a whole.

New Zealand rugby had a wonderful legacy that separated them from the rest of the chasing pack and had them as perennial front runners in rugby values.

Unfortunately, it seems everything has its price these days.

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