NZ Rugby invites outside investors to buy franchises

Anthony Tuitavake of the Auckland Blues in the Super 14 match at Eden Park, New Zealand, 2009. The NZRU says it will hold on to the Blues if it opens its franchises up to outside bidders. [getty Images]
PHOTO

Anthony Tuitavake of the Auckland Blues in the Super 14 match at Eden Park, New Zealand, 2009. The NZRU says it will hold on to the Blues if it opens its franchises up to outside bidders. [getty Images]

Last Updated: Fri, 2 Dec 2011 16:14:00 +1100

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) says it is considering opening up its Super rugby franchises, allowing outside investors to buy management licenses in four of the union's southern hemisphere teams.

The proposal is an attempt to make the teams financially independent as the tournament stands to lose more than $US2 million this year after the World Cup cut into sponsorship, television and gate revenues.

"If the entities are well run and we get back to the levels of support we had at the start of the competition, they should be self funding and preferably profitable," NZRU chief executive, Steve Tew said.

Buyers will have marketing and management powers over the team, gaining profit from naming rights and 'non-rugby' activities.

But Mr Tew assures the teams will remain in New Zealand.

"This has not been attempted in New Zealand professional sport before, so we have a very open mind to get some fresh initiative and to reinvigorate the franchise model and hopefully bring some more capital to bear on their activities," he said.

Mr Tew says the proposal is still tentative, but criticism has already been raised by some members of the NZRU, who have been forced at various times to bail out their Super rugby teams and a number of domestic provincial sides.

If the proposal passes, the NZRU says it will still have ownership of the Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Wellington Hurricanes and Canterbury Crusaders, and responsibility for contracting playing and coaching staff.

The Otago Highlanders, the other New Zealand side in the southern hemisphere competition, would also be excluded from the proposal as they are already seeking other opportunities.

"We are very much testing the water," Mr Tew told Reuters.

Expressions of interest will close on March 9, 2012 with shortlisted parties to submit a proposal by April and formal agreements concluded by June.

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