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Thread: Super Rugby Pacific’s future in doubt after Rugby Australia’s ‘betrayal’ of New Zeala

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    Super Rugby Pacific’s future in doubt after Rugby Australia’s ‘betrayal’ of New Zeala

    Super Rugby Pacific’s future in doubt after Rugby Australia’s ‘betrayal’ of New Zealand Rugby​

    By Gregor Paul
    24 May, 2023 11:30 AM

    Super Rugby Pacific was celebrating late last year after it was agreed that New Zealand and Australia would both commit to the competition until 2030. But now the Australians are reneging on key features of the deal they signed, and fears are rising that Super Rugby Pacific is going to fall apart, leaving professional club rugby in the Southern Hemisphere with a bleak and uninspiring future. Gregor Paul reports.

    In December last year, months of what had been tense and at times confrontational negotiations concluded when the rugby unions of New Zealand and Australia signed a joint-venture agreement to commit to Super Rugby Pacific until 2030.

    The deal, described by then Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos as “the dawn of a new era”, was built on the three pillars of a short-term revenue sharing agreement, the appointment of an independent commission led by a chief executive and governed by a nine-person board, and a general commitment to give Super Rugby Pacific greater commercial and management autonomy and a stronger identity.

    The commission, it was agreed, would have a remit to drive commercial revenue, oversee rules and regulations, shape the future strategic direction and generate fan-first initiatives.

    It was being set up to take the lower-level decision-making and day-to-day running out of the hands of Sanzaar, the Sydney-based administrative company owned, funded and governed by the national unions of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

    The 12 Super Rugby Pacific clubs are unanimous in their belief that Sanzaar is conflicted as it primarily exists to protect and promote the interests of the national bodies it represents and its decision-making over the last two decades has reflected its desire to put the international game first.

    What NZR and Rugby Australia agreed when they both signed the term sheet securing Super Rugby Pacific’s future through to 2030, was that the new commission would manage, market and promote Super Rugby, Sanzaar would continue to do the same for the Rugby Championship and that decision-making authority for “major matters” such as negotiating broadcast deals, changing eligibility laws, expanding the number of teams or materially changing the format of either competition would remain categorically with the national unions.

    The significance of the agreement was enormous as it ended what was a real prospect of Southern Hemisphere rugby being destroyed by an ongoing and seemingly irresolvable feud between NZR and Rugby Australia which began in June 2020 when NZR unilaterally blew up the competition, announced it was launching a new one and then told Australia only three of their teams would get in.

    The Australians never quite got over being treated like that, and in mid-June last year unexpectedly announced they were ready to quit Super Rugby Pacific at the end of 2023 and set up their own competition — a threat that seemingly ended with the joint-venture agreement until 2030.

    “This long-term agreement provides certainty for players, coaches, fans, sponsors and broadcast partners,” declared NZR chief executive Mark Robinson in December last year.

    “And it solidifies our joint commitment to ensuring Super Rugby Pacific is the most entertaining, innovative and fan-focused cross-border club competition in the world.”

    But six months on and the sense of certainty has been replaced by what is beginning to feel like betrayal as there is still no independent commission or board in operation, and according to multiple sources, Rugby Australia is reneging on or at least trying to alter many of the conditions that were included in the term sheet it signed.

    The fear in New Zealand is that Rugby Australia is trying to unpick the deal that saved Super Rugby Pacific and persevere with an archaic and conflicted management model that leaves it under the control of national unions and forced to pander to the needs of the Wallabies and All Blacks.

    As the Herald understands it, an independent chair and four independent directors have been found to join the CEOs of NZR and Rugby Australia and the heads of the New Zealand and Australian professional player associations to form a nine-person board as per the terms of the deal.

    But it is believed Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is claiming that neither he nor his board were made aware of all the conditions in the term sheet and that they don’t support an independent commission being set up.

    It is understood that Rugby Australia now wants an unspecified, but smaller number of people handpicked from the two national unions and participating clubs to run Super Rugby — more as a committee than an active, funded body empowered to drive change.

    That would effectively leave Super Rugby under the management and governance of Sanzaar — whose chair is McLennan.

    Several sources have confirmed this change of heart occurred after McLennan failed to get his way over the appointment of a chief executive for the independent commission.

    Sources say Rugby Australia wanted to hand-pick the appointment, whereas NZR felt it was more appropriate to run a process. When they couldn’t agree, Rugby Australia then began walking back its commitment to the commission.

    The Herald has also been told that despite the signed term sheet clearly spelling out that “major matters” remain entirely within the control of the national unions, Rugby Australia has aired concerns that it believes the commission would be able to kick Australian teams out of Super Rugby Pacific on a whim and renegotiate broadcast rights.

    Rugby Australia’s refusal to commit to what it agreed last year has left Super Rugby Pacific in a state of limbo at a time when some of the key metrics around the competition are showing growth.

    Broadcast audiences in New Zealand are at their highest levels in five years and NZR wants the commission — which would effectively be a super-charged marketing arm — to be in place to capitalise on this fan revival.

    NZR and New Zealand’s clubs also believe that the commission would play a vital role in driving fans back to games as while broadcast numbers are climbing, attendances are suffering an overall decline, albeit with major spikes for specific, high-profile games.

    And there is universal agreement on both sides of the Tasman that more needs to be done to address the inequity in the competition which has seen a gulf open between the top five teams and bottom seven.

    Robinson says that talks with Rugby Australia will resume this week, but that NZR remains committed to implementing the terms agreed last year.

    He said: “New Zealand Rugby and our clubs’ position is that we see benefit in having a more dedicated, focused Super Rugby in the shape of a commission with dedicated resource around governance and management model that might have more a singular focus and bring fresh perspective to some of the challenges we have historically seen in the competition.

    “We continue to work in partnership with Rugby Australia to work through these matters.”

    Given that Rugby Australia has signed a legally binding contract, it’s unclear what will happen if it continues to refuse to accept the commitment it made last year.

    NZR would presumably be reluctant to head to court due to the expense, permanent damage it would inflict upon the relationship and lack of certainty that it would deliver a beneficial, practical outcome.

    The more likely consequence is that NZR will withdraw the $7m of annual funding it has agreed to pay Rugby Australia annually until 2025 as part of a retrospectively agreed broadcast revenue sharing agreement.

    But the fact that NZR is having to contemplate court action or cutting the purse strings is a worrying sign that Super Rugby Pacific is not on the solid ground it believed it was late last year.

    The future of the Southern Hemisphere’s showpiece club competition is once again shrouded in doubt and being held hostage by vested interests and Rugby Australia’s refusal to cede any kind of control.


    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/exc...ALXQ24EVHMG2A/

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    A bit hard to decode what's at the heart of this without knowing details of the 'agreed' process of selecting directors & who ran it.

    It's not as if the NZRU would normally be upset if they don't get what they want, right?

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Since it's a Gregor Paul whinge, you can guess it's an NZRU leak

    He's the shaky isles version of Tom decent

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    C'mon the

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    Champion Tazzmania's Avatar
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    I do not like to get into the "politics"of rugby, however, we need to be weary and remain vigilant here in the West.

    It appears that while we do not know what the "truth" is in reporting anymore, we more than anyone else know the faith we can put into RA and its representatives doing what they say they are going to do.

    It appears to me that Hamish may just possibly be a "professional gaslighter" of the highest order and we better not get burnt again.

    Goalposts appear to be moving again.

    Making policies on the run, changing agreed terms after the fact, I think this could be a case of history repeating itself

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    Senior Player Leo86's Avatar
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    A whole lot of boo Australia,

    "Rugby Australia has aired concerns that it believes the commission would be able to kick Australian teams out of Super Rugby Pacific on a whim and renegotiate broadcast rights.

    Boo more Australia


    The middle comment is the most concerning over NZR and RA playing together in the same sandpit.

    Did RA sign a up to something in good faith to protect their participation, that was actually written legally to screw them. I wonder where NZR would get such an idea?

    This should be a partnership with equal teams from each set in stone. If NZR are trying to take control and get their 3 Aus teams they wanted through dodgy means then I hope that RA is and will continue to fight them on it

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    Quote Originally Posted by GIGS20 View Post
    Since it's a Gregor Paul whinge, you can guess it's an NZRU leak

    He's the shaky isles version of Tom decent
    Hit the nail right on the head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tazzmania View Post
    It appears to me that Hamish may just possibly be a "professional gaslighter" of the highest order and we better not get burnt again.
    You say Hamish, I hear megalomaniacal narcissist...

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burgs View Post
    You say Hamish, I hear megalomaniacal narcissist...
    I was pretty surprised at the puerile peurile pissing comp between he and V'Landys over Suali'i & Co. Both as bad as one another. Though both seem very successful in the corporate world.

    P.S. I hope that doesn't earn me another ticking-off.

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    Veteran chibi's Avatar
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    I wonder if a compromise would be Australia keep their five teams and New Zealand get a few more? Take the competition up to 15 teams by getting rid of the regions and including the top eight of the NPC instead (with a draft)? You can still have 14 regular season games. But would they want their talent spread amongst the 8 (9 if Moana Pasifika is included) and possibly lose dominance in the competition to Australia's 5? Would they even lose dominance, knowing that even more of their "away" games are a hop, skip and jump away in NZ? It would certainly make the competition harder for the Force with travel. But even then, maybe the Kiwi teams could tour Australia, in the same way that we and the Fijians could tour there, levelling out the difficulty of such a competition? And has it been too long a time for the traditional provincial teams to still have their brand name value? Can the likes of North Harbour vs Auckland, or Canterbury vs Otago, this time at full strength, still draw in the ratings? I don't know if a full-strength NPC can be a money-spinner, but maybe with the inclusion of strong Aussie sides with good home attendances, it could. But again, if it is, would we be unevenly sharing Aussie-earned money with NZ simply because they have more sides?

    What a head-scratcher.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tazzmania View Post
    It appears to me that Hamish may just possibly be a "professional gaslighter" of the highest order and we better not get burnt again.
    Quote Originally Posted by Leo86 View Post
    Did RA sign a up to something in good faith to protect their participation, that was actually written legally to screw them. I wonder where NZR would get such an idea?
    These two comments still make me worry, always reminds me that the only reason we're back in the competition was because of the Wuhan Flu; otherwise we'd still be playing against whomever Twiggy could organise.

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    Last edited by chibi; 25-05-23 at 15:52.


    Japan and the Pacific Islands for Aussie Super 9's!

    Let's have one of these in WA! Click this link: Saitama Super Arena - New Perth Stadium?

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    ‘Over my dead body’: McLennan adamant Australian teams won’t be cut from Super Rugby

    ByTom Decent
    May 26, 2023 — 3.30pm

    Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has given an assurance that a Super Rugby Pacific commission will be set up by next season and declared that an Australian team would be cut “over my dead body”.

    Amid rising tensions between RA and New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand Herald reported this week — under the headline ‘Super Rugby Pacific’s future in doubt after Rugby Australia’s ‘betrayal’ of New Zealand Rugby’ — that “RA is reneging on or at least trying to alter many of the conditions that were included in the term sheet it signed”.

    The report goes on to say that McLennan and RA no longer support the concept of an independent commission, which both governing bodies agreed would be set up following the announcement in December of a joint-venture agreement for Super Rugby Pacific until 2030.

    Six months later, there has been no major progress in forming a commission, which both organisations agreed would have the final say on rules, strategy and commercial operations for the new 12-team competition that was formed in 2022.

    The proposed commission would effectively replace SANZAAR at a Super Rugby level.

    Following a meeting between RA and NZR officials on Thursday, McLennan said RA “absolutely” wants a commission. However, he admitted RA’s preference is for a smaller group of board members than had initially been agreed last year.

    NZR’s understanding was that the Super Rugby commission would be led by a chief executive and governed by a nine-person board, with representatives from Australia and New Zealand.

    “We’ve agreed to the term sheet in its entirety,” McLennan told this masthead. “It’s all about execution and how we’ll best do it.

    “We are keen to ensure that SANZAAR — as it pertains to Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — maintains its integrity and we avoid cost duplication and overlap.

    “We have good days and bad days with NZR. I’m sure all will be fine.”

    The New Zealand Herald report also stated: “RA has aired concerns that it believes the commission would be able to kick Australian teams out of Super Rugby Pacific on a whim and renegotiate broadcast rights.”

    Pressed on those claims, McLennan believed there was no way New Zealand could, down the track, exercise power to kick out one or more Australian teams, such as the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force.

    The Western Force were kicked out of Super Rugby in 2017 but returned during the pandemic to participate in an Australia-only competition. They were propped up by billionaire mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

    The Melbourne Rebels, whom the then-Australian Rugby Union considered axing in 2017, have significant support from the Victorian government.

    “[Losing Australian teams] is not going to happen. Every major matter has to come back to the respective boards,” McLennan said.

    “I’ve committed to [Rebels chairman] Paul Docherty and [Force owner] Andrew Forrest. Over my dead body will they be kicked out.”

    After multiple threats to cut ties and start a competition of their own, Australia are now firmly of the belief they are better playing with their Kiwi neighbours.

    Super Rugby Pacific, in its current iteration, features five Australian teams and five Kiwi teams, plus Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika.

    NZR CEO Mark Robinson told the NZ Herald: “New Zealand Rugby and our clubs’ position is that we see benefit in having a more dedicated, focused Super Rugby in the shape of a commission with dedicated resource around governance and management model that might have more [of] a singular focus and bring fresh perspective to some of the challenges we have historically seen in the competition.

    “We continue to work in partnership with Rugby Australia to work through these matters.”

    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-u...26-p5dbhn.html

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    See hears the good oil for us at the Force we’re the only team in the Australian conference that has serious coin willing to back us. So while potentially someone could be chopped I think Hamburger McClennan knows that the kiwis need someone with some cash, hence us, Twiggy gets pissed off and flexes his muscles it could work out ugly for RA. He’s already proven it once before and the kiwis were only too happy to come along for the ride.

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