I concede, finances for NZ to sustain 9 professional teams are questionable. It does depend on the model being able to successfully engage more fans to increase the value of broadcast deals and sponsorships. I believe this model can achieve this objective and generate enough revenue to sustain the increased costs of the second tier platform. Particularly when you consider that there’s an awful amount of growing room that can be achieved in the Australian market and I believe in the product enough to think that great inroads can be made here.
I liken it to the situation in the NRL. A few years ago, they signed a $1 billion TV deal. Now within the leagues 16 team competition are many clubs that are in a financially weak position, particularly in the Sydney market. If the NRL were to suddenly cut these teams from the league, the value of future TV deals would drop. So the league now props up all teams with a ‘club grant’ (earnt from TV money) which effectively covers the player salaries. The NRL knows that the teams in the Sydney market represent key heartlands of the game and their ongoing involvement in the league is vital to the value of future broadcast deals.
Increasing NZ’s professional involvement is providing direct representation of NZ heartlands with long and proud histories in the game. It’s also exposing more exciting talent to professional rugby so these teams are earning their worth.
As I said, this structure doesn’t have to mess with the tiers beneath Super Rugby. The best are still going to rise to the top and the pathways to take them there will remain intact.
I think it’s pretty obvious what I’d do if SA pulled the pin, I just wrote an article about it. As I said somewhere else, this is an end goal and there are a number of check points on the way but I’d be doing everything to maintain our relationship with NZ and if that led nowhere, we’d have no choice but to developing our own professional second tier. So I repeat, what would NZ do if SA pulled the pin on Super Rugby?
I take your points, but unfortunately NZ are stuck in between a rock and a hard place. While I believe NZ could potentially sustain more than the current 5 professional teams, there’s no way you could go the ‘whole-hog’ and promote all 14 provinces to a fully professional model. Furthermore, for NZ to generate the income required to compete with the player wages on offer OS, they need to increase their direct market and joining their interests with a ‘healthy’ Australia (which hopefully we’d achieve with a greater second tier presence like the A League has) does this.
You’ve raised some real concerns that face NZ’s provincial model and so long as money talks (which it always will in professional sport), these issues will remain. The answer for mine is to accept that the second tier is where money is generated and to create a structure with Australia that recognises some of the brands and strengths of the NPC on NZ’s side, while maintaining the full ITM Cup as a feeder competition for the second tier.
I accept the important role the NPC hold’s in NZ’s rugby hierarchy and the valued traditions and history that the competition promotes. But again, a competition so close to the pointy end of the pyramid has to recognise that change is a certainty to remain relevant in a professional sporting environment. This is particularly the case in a small market like NZ where unfortunately they aren’t sheltered from external trends and forces.
Although Australian’s might not be as well versed on the ins and outs of the NZ rugby system, we understand the influences at play with professional sport and the place change plays in remaining competitive. Our top flight rugby league competition has had to make alterations such as dropping and merging teams in order to create a strong future for the game.
Richard, it’s that sort of cynical view that will make a working relationship with NZ a challenge. I agree, Sammy’s comment was absurd and we don’t want NZ as a defacto state. But whether you like to admit it or not, like the US and Canada, there are undeniable links that exist between our two countries.
It’s not possible to fit all of the fine detail into an article like this. There’s always ways to come up with solutions that address the challenges we’re met with. The fact is, no change is going to be a perfect fit and it’s about coming up with answers to get around the concerns that arise.
If you read a few of the comments, I suggested an agreement be made where NZ developed players that come across to plug holes in Australian teams (and I concede, this will be required to create an even competition) are ‘out of bounds’ for Wallaby selection and remain available for the AB’s. It’s a win/win where Australia gets competitive domestic teams and NZ gets to develop more players for test selection.
Despite what some kiwis think, this isn’t really all about $4!tting on NZ from a great height to make us better. I recognise, no sustainable partnership can work like that into the future. It’s about realising together we’re stronger and both taking advantage of that for the betterment of our respective games.