All Blacks players in revolt threat to New Zealand Rugby after extraordinary letter plunges game into crisis

Colin Newboult
Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane for the All Blacks.

Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane for the All Blacks.

Rugby in New Zealand is facing a potential civil war after the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) warned that they will split from the governing body if their demands are not met.

A letter, signed by several All Blacks past and present, has been sent to the New Zealand Rugby members ahead of a vote at a special general meeting on May 30.

It relates to a proposal put forward by some provincial unions following a review into the NZR after a NZ$200m deal with Silver Lake was accepted.

A condition of that agreement was for a review to be set up, delving into the governance of the NZR.

Changed recommended

The outcome was particularly bad for the governing body, with it being described as ‘not fit for purpose.’

As a result, sweeping changes were recommended, but since then some provincial unions have come back with a counter-offer, which the players have deemed unacceptable.

“Should Proposal 2 [put forward by some provincial unions] be adopted, or the status quo prevail, the professional players will no longer pass to NZRU, via a collective employment agreement, the right to govern the professional game,” the NZRPA letter read.

“A new body will be established to govern the professional game in New Zealand. Directors appointed by the professional players will represent the players on this body and on other bodies such as NZRC [New Zealand Rugby Commercial].

“NZRU will make appointments to this new body, as will, likely NZRC. Super Rugby clubs will be represented and tangata whenua will of course be inherent.”

New Zealand Rugby to ‘modernise’ after scathing review deemed them ‘not fit for purpose’

Big names involved

Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Will Jordan and David Kirk, as well as Blacks Ferns stars Sarah Hirini and Ruby Tui, were among those to sign the letter.

It added: “This new body, for example called ‘The Professional Rugby Tribunal’, will govern, in some sort of partnership with NZRU, the sale of media rights, the contracting of sponsors, the revenue share model, international and national competitions, the high-performance programmes and development pathways and any other activity that impacts the careers, safety, remuneration, workplace and development of professional players.

“NZRU will continue to govern alone the community and amateur game including provincial rugby, club rugby and other non-professional rugby activities.”

Although the players do not want to go through with this action, they insist that they have been left with little alternative if that proposal, rather than the NZRPA-backed idea, is voted through.

“The proposed new arrangements outlined above are NOT the NZRPA’s preference. The professional players do not want to see a divided and further complicated governance system but will not under any circumstances be governed under Proposal 2 or the status quo,” the letter read.

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