Bloomberg News

New Zealand May Boycott Future Rugby World Cups Over Cash

September 28, 2011

(Updates with Australian comment in fourth paragraph.)

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand is ready to pull out of future Rugby World Cups unless an International Rugby Board review recommends a commercial model that would address revenue losses for the major teams, the nation’s rugby boss said.

The prospects of the top-ranked All Blacks going to the 2015 tournament in England are slim unless changes are made, according to New Zealand Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer Steve Tew. This year’s tournament in New Zealand concludes on Oct. 23.

“That’s obviously a last resort,” Tew told Radio New Zealand today when asked whether a boycott is possible. “We’re four years away. We have a lot of time to work through that.”

The Australian Rugby Union backed Tew’s concerns, saying leading nations face a cumulative loss in World Cup years of as much as 48 million pounds ($75 million). “The current economic model is unsustainable and unacceptable,” ARU Managing Director John O’Neill said in a statement today.

The New Zealand union will lose NZ$13 million ($10 million) this year as it was unable to host an overseas team and had to limit the scale of the annual TriNations contest with South Africa and Australia, reducing ticket and television revenue, Tew said. IRB rules also prevent the All Blacks’ sponsors being associated with the team during the tournament.

“In the current environment we can’t afford to run a World Cup year at a loss and nor do we think it is necessary,” Tew said. “We believe there’s a better way of doing it.”

Tew’s comments about a possible 2015 boycott were first reported by the London-based Telegraph.

A ‘Fairer’ Share

Tew said his union is seeking a “fairer” share of proceeds from the Rugby World Cup for participating teams, and a change in sponsorship restrictions. New Zealand also wants a date change to allow the TriNations, which from 2012 expands to a four-team contest including Argentina, to be completed.

The IRB re-invests commercial revenue from the four-yearly tournament across all 117 member unions to advance development of the sport, it said in an e-mailed statement. About 150 million pounds is being invested between 2009 and 2012, with more than half of that shared among leading nations such as New Zealand, it said. A reassessment of the arrangements was agreed to in May.

“A review is not only necessary, it is in our view quite urgent,” Tew said. “Now’s not a bad time to see the issue considered and given time to find a solution without having to go to any drastic measures.”

The assessment will “balance the strategic needs of member unions with the ability to provide the IRB with the financial platform for the development of a sport that has witnessed an 18 percent growth in participation since the last Rugby World Cup in France” in 2007, the IRB said in its statement. The board won’t be making further comment, said Dominic Rumbles, head of communications, in an interview.

The Australian union is A$16 million ($15.8 million) worse off because the Rugby World Cup caused “massive disruption” due to “no inbound Tests from northern hemisphere teams and a curtailed TriNations,” the ARU’s O’Neill said.

--Editors: Garfield Reynolds, Benjamin Purvis

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Malcolm Scott at mscott23@bloomberg.net


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