NZ franchises attract private investment
Private investors have been granted the licences to run two of New Zealand's Super Rugby teams from 2013, the New Zealand Rugby Union said on Monday, in a move aimed at better exploiting the commercial potential of the franchises.
The Hurricanes and Crusaders will operate under the new licensing agreement from next year after a deal between commercial investors and local unions had been reached, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.
"These new arrangements are a step forward in terms of putting ... Super Rugby on a stronger financial footing to ensure the game at the professional level is better placed to prosper and deliver for its fans," Tew said in a statement.
Under the agreement, the licensee will manage the team and have control over marketing, while it will generate revenue from gate receipts, the sale of naming rights and from "non-rugby" activities.
The NZRU, however, will retain ownership of the teams and responsibility for centrally contracting playing and coaching staff, which allows them to continue to prioritise the production of players for the All Blacks.
The NZRU had called for expressions of interest in licences to manage four of the five franchises – the Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Hurricanes and Crusaders – earlier this year.
The Highlanders, the other New Zealand side in the southern hemisphere competition, were not included as they were already seeking other management opportunities.
The governing body said it expected a bid for the Blues franchise licence to be in place for the 2014 season, while the 2012 Super Rugby-winning Chiefs had not submitted a formal bid in time, which Tew described as "disappointing".
It is the first time that outside investment has been allowed in New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises since the launch of the competition in 1996.
New Zealand are by far the most successful nation in the Super Rugby competition but the smaller population of the country compared to Australia and South Africa means that revenue potential is lower.