Future of New Zealand rugby in the balance

Henry

A proposal for a comprehensive reform of New Zealand Rugby’s (NSR) governing body has been rejected by that country’s provincial unions.

Months of disagreement came to a head at a special general meeting in Wellington on Thursday where the 26 provincial unions voted for a watered-down proposal that would see them retain much of their power.

The possibility exists that professional players, including a few members of the All Blacks, could form their own breakaway governing body.

NSR and the professional players’ association supported an alternative proposal aimed at reducing the provinces’ hold on the game.

An independent review last year labeled the NSR’s management model as unsuitable and recommended sweeping changes.

Rob Nichol, chief executive of the players’ association, believes that the general meeting was important in bringing about the necessary changes.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate that we didn’t seize the opportunity,” he said.

Nichol highlighted the association’s intention to separate from NZR, while adding that decisions must be made in the interests of rugby.

“We will not trust New Zealand Rugby’s current management format to make the decisions themselves.”

The unions will still have the necessary authority to appoint three seats on the nine-member management board. The rejected proposal aimed to elect these seats independently.

“We agreed to change, but to switch to an independent board would completely give up any power we had,” said Peter Winchester, chairman of the Canterbury Rugby Union.

“We have to stand together and promote the game.”

Arran Pene, the former All Black forward who backed the failed proposal, described the development as disappointing.

This is unlikely to be the end of the saga.