New Zealand's women's rugby players are set to get professional contracts for the first time after chief executive Steve Tew announced a record breaking profit of $33.4 million for New Zealand Rugby in 2017.
After the Black Ferns won the world cup for the fifth time last year, NZR will now create centralised contracts for the women, with details yet to be determined.
Tew says NZR and the Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) will be taking their time with the groundbreaking agreement.
"We just got to find a way to make sure that any professionalisation of that is sustainable, both for the players and the organisation. That's what we're working on at the moment with the NZRPA. We're negotiating with the Players Association and the end point of that will be a contract of some shape or form," Tew said.
The financial windfall from the Lions 10-match tour was the driving force behind a record $224 million investment in the national game.
Tew said the Lions Series had come in slightly ahead of budget and delivered positive results across the board.
"The New Zealand Lions Series has always been a major part of our 2020 Strategy and we are very proud of the way it was delivered to our fans and stakeholders.
"Ultimately our goals were to showcase New Zealand to the world, contribute to the country's economy, ensure the Series was profitable, and to win the Test matches.
"We didn't always get the on-field results we were after, but Super Rugby and provincial rugby fans from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland got in behind their teams and made the Series a fantastic celebration of the game."
The Lions Series generated an incremental profit of $40 million compared to a normal year when the All Blacks play a three-match Series. According to a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report the Series directly contributed $245 million to the country's GDP.*
"The New Zealand Lions Series generated massive interest both here in New Zealand and globally and that's reflected in the numbers, but it needs to be put in the context of being a one-in-twelve-year-event," Tew said.
NZR works to a five-year rolling financial projection and needs to balance its profits with the requirement to future-proof the game in an ever-changing environment.
"If you look at 2017 we had an unusual number of top quality international rugby matches played on New Zealand soil and as a result, NZR benefited from a significant spike in income, mainly from increased gate takings and broadcasting revenue. This spike was in our financial projections and provided us with the confidence to invest heavily back into the game, starting last year when we made a loss of $7.5m and going forward.
"The reality is we won't have those advantages over the next three years, but we have planned for that and will therefore continue to be smart about our costs and where our priorities lie.
"Our Provincial Unions are on a firmer footing than they have been in the recent past, the women's programme is growing highlighted by the performances of the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens in 2017, and we are implementing the outcomes of our Respect and Responsibility Review."
As well as the seven non-All Blacks tour matches during the Lions Series, the All Blacks played seven Tests in New Zealand in 2017 including the Pasifika Challenge against Samoa, three Tests against the British and Irish Lions, and three Tests against Australia, Argentina and South Africa as part of the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks' global exposure contributed to a 14 per cent growth in sponsorship and licensing including new relationships with Amazon and Apple and the ongoing support of our Principal Partner adidas, and Major Global Sponsor AIG.