A US investment fund wants a percentage of the commercial rights of a rugby union that has incurred millions in losses due to the pandemic. But the players oppose it.
A dispute over money and tradition has been raised with particular force in recent days between the New Zealand Rugby Federation (NZR) and the All Blacks main auditor from a bid by a US investment fund that wants to obtain the percentage of commercial rights for that country’s sporting governing body.
The conflict arose after the Silver Lake Fund offered approximately $ 324 million for 15 percent of New Zealand’s commercial rights, which would include those related to the hakka, the traditional Maori war dance that precedes every show of world champions in 1987, 2011 and 2015.
The Union considered the proposal satisfactory, and argued that the agreement was absolutely necessary to alleviate the difficulties caused by the restrictions caused by the Coronavirus epidemic in the organization’s economy, which indicated in detail that it had recorded losses ranging between 41 and 53 million dollars in the past. Year and lost nearly half of its reserves (down from $ 94 million to $ 49 million).
However, in order to sign this agreement, NZR needs to endorse the county unions, franchises that participate in Super Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA). It is the latter that presents the strongest opposition.
We will not grant approval for the restructuring and sale proposed by NZR. “We are not ready to sell 129 years of history,” said NZPRA in a letter to NZR managers and clubs, signed by its president, Rob Nichol, and which also includes the signature of All Blacks captain, Sam Cane.
In addition to Kane, teammates Aaron Smith, Sam Whitlock, and Dean Coles signed their names. Plus the captain of the seven-member women’s team, Sarah Herini, and another reference from that team, Celica Winata.
“We know many players are uncomfortable and we think many other New Zealanders will feel this way about selling income-generating assets that are based in part on cultural practices and knowledge that they believe are not for sale under any circumstances,” NZPRA argued.
The Players’ Union argued that the income the agreement with Silver Lake would bring could be managed in other ways, such as gaining access to the capital market, setting up a business in NZR’s orbit, or training and developing talent. .
NZPRA, which considered the agreement could affect “this particular bond and the nature of what rugby means to New Zealanders and players and spectators alike,” said NZPRA.
On the other hand, NZR CEO Mark Robinson said the organization he heads should fight for the common interests of New Zealand rugby and not just members of the national teams.
“We have 160,000 players in this country and we are a country of five million people who care deeply about the game. We understand that it is our duty to take care of all those associated with the game at this time and we take this responsibility very seriously,” said the manager.
Robinson also reported that he would hold meetings with players’ union representatives in the coming days and was confident that endorsement would be obtained in those meetings to advance the deal with Silver Lake. Time is short as the agreement will have to be ratified at NZR’s annual general meeting later this month.