Chiefs, Taranaki deal announcement due soon

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 10:27 01/12/2013
Dave Rennie
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

Dave Rennie with Bundee Aki (left) and Augustine Pulu after the Chiefs victory in the 2013 Super Rugby final.

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The Chiefs hope to announce a new licensing deal to run the franchise and inject more capital into it by December 10.

And new Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman is anxious to ease concerns that any new deal will mean Waikato Stadium losing home games to Taranaki.

The licence has to be granted by the New Zealand Rugby Union and a group comprising a mixture of provincial unions and private enterprise has legal and financial representatives putting together the final legal documentation needed to complete the bid ready for presentation to the national body.

The group includes the Taranaki Rugby Union, and as part of the initial deal it is understood two Chiefs home games will be played over the next two seasons in New Plymouth.

"Initially if Taranaki do come into the Chiefs they're going to be a hugely valued partner, are in a position to bring some much needed capital to the business and so we need to be cognisant of the fact that Taranaki presents a major opportunity for us in the commercial space," Mr Flexman said.

But he admitted the Chiefs faced challenges winning over fans in Taranaki, many of whom would remain loyal to the Hurricanes, while staying engaged with their established fan base.

In the last two seasons Waikato Stadium has hosted six regular season games as well as home semifinals and finals, while Mt Maunganui and Pukekohe have hosted one round-robin match each.

The latter two were both regarded as financial disasters this year and the Chiefs players and management were unhappy with the playing surface at Baypark Stadium. It seems both Counties Manukau and Bay of Plenty might have to be content hosting pre-season games in the next two seasons.

The Chiefs have a contractual commitment with Hamilton City Council to play at least five home games at Waikato Stadium and six have already been confirmed for there next year to continue to take advantage of the high-class playing and spectator facilities there.

"With where our fan base is at the moment that feels about right to us, but there is a slight unknown as to how Super Rugby will look from 2016 and onwards but the [NZ franchise] CEOs have pretty much put to the NZRU as a non-negotiable that we continue to get eight home games," he said.

With extra money coming into the coffers as a result of the new deal, budgets for the 2013-14 financial year have been put in place to take advantage.

That capital is already being put to use with the Chiefs' Ruakura gym floor relaid, new gym equipment imported from the US and a short running track laid through the middle of the gym.

Plans are also being put in place for a roofed training area on either natural grass or artificial grass beside the administration building for the 2015 season to complement the sand-based full-sized training field constructed a year ago.

And about $100,000 is being put aside to upgrade and renovate the administration building, while Flexman also wants to see money spent on market research to ensure they are meeting their fans' needs.

Flexman said the putting together of the licence bid had been a long, drawn-out process, but they were making great progress.

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"We certainly hope that before Christmas we can make an official announcement on it."

- Waikato

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