28 Apr 2021

New Zealand Rugby still waiting on player approval

6:39 pm on 28 April 2021

Professional players' resistance to support New Zealand Rugby's deal with private equity firm Silver Lake is being labelled "the biggest own goal in the history of New Zealand sport".

New Zealand Rugby chair Brent Impey.

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey Photo: Photosport

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) need the backing of more than 50 percent of the country's provincial rugby unions at Thursday's AGM along with the approval of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association for Silver Lake to get a 12.5 percent stake in NZR's commercial interests.

The deal is worth $387.5 million for NZR.

NZR chairman Brent Impey said the mediation between NZR and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association was ongoing and the players would not support the deal at the AGM.

"We've agreed to go back to our stakeholder groups, we'll reconvene at some point after this week, but no deal with the players," Impey told Checkpoint.

"We're at different ends of the spectrum, New Zealand Rugby needs to do this transaction, it's transformational for the whole game not just the professional players but there are 158,000 community players and what we need to do is to create a legacy for all of rugby to be able to move forward."

In papers released for Thursday's AGM it is outlined that $39m of the sale price will be distributed to stakeholders, such as provincial unions and a legacy fund will be established to ensure the sustainability of rugby at all levels.

Third Bledisloe Cup Test Match between the Qantas Wallabies and New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia. New Zealand's Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and Sam Cane. Photo: Stuart Walmsley / www.photosport.nz

All Blacks Photo: Stuart Walmsley / www.photosport.nz

NZR and the players association are quibbling over how the money from the deal will be split between the legacy fund and the players.

"If this deal doesn't proceed because of the stance taken by the players association it'll be the biggest own goal in the history of New Zealand sport," Impey said.

"I think [the players] are failing to realise what is a significant opportunity and it's disappointing."

Impey said players would gain financially from the deal, "it'll be a smaller percentage but it'll be more money".

"Our argument is yes money does have to go to the professional game and yes we want to pay our professional players more, but more importantly are all of the mums and dads out there, the need for clubs, schools, teenagers, Maori, Pacifica, women, whatever if is that we fail to have sufficient resources to be able to solve the problems we have."

The players had put forward an alternative proposal which could see Silver Lake get a 5 percent stake, but Impey said the proposal was "fundamentally flawed".