Hurricanes and Crusaders get new operators
- Hurricanes to be managed by Wellington union and private investors
- Crusaders licence agreed in principle
- Further licences possible from 2014
"We are very pleased to confirm today that two groups involving a mix of provincial unions and private investors will manage the Hurricanes and Crusaders Investec Super Rugby Franchises from 2013," NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said.
"These new arrangements are a step forward in terms of putting Investec 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."
A licence to manage the Hurricanes Franchise has been awarded to a Wellington group led by the Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU), for a period of three years, with a right of renewal for five more years. The group includes Welnix, owners of the capital's A-League football club, Wellington Phoenix and former Hurricanes directors Paul Collins and Liz Dawson.
The NZRU and a Crusaders region consortium have agreed in principle a licence arrangement to operate the Crusaders Franchise and a final contract is expected to be signed within a month with the details announced then.
Objectives of licence process met
"This was always a step into the unknown so to have secured two new operators is a good result," said Tew.
For the Blues, options were being considered both regionally and internationally and the franchise required more time to consolidate a final bid.
"We expect a bid for the Blues will be submitted to allow a licence to be issued for 2014."
WRFU Chief Executive James Te Puni said: "This is great news for Wellington and Hurricanes' rugby fans who now can celebrate knowing their favourite team is staying here. This new structure strengthens the Hurricanes providing the platform to build a sustainable and successful team.
"The Hurricanes will continue to be based at our world class training facility while carrying the flag to the whole Hurricanes region."
For further information on the Hurricanes' group, click here for media statement and here for fact sheet.
Steve Tew said he NZRU was pleased with the calibre of the new team behind the Hurricanes.
"Our aim at the start of this process was to ensure franchises could benefit from being run by independent boards with an improved mix of commercial, marketing and management expertise with an injection of outside capital to strengthen their financial performance.
"We were looking for stronger governance at the board level, fresh thinking and new investors and the Hurricanes consortium certainly delivers in that regard.
"Rugby operates in a highly competitive market for the attention of sports fans and while we have had a stellar Investec Super Rugby season this year, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
"This move gives the game at the professional level a better chance to be run profitably, to build on its appeal to fans and to enhance its ability to feed a winning All Blacks team. And that has to be good for rugby at all levels."
Changes at the Chiefs
An initial expression of interest was also received for the Chiefs.
"However, it is disappointing the Chiefs were not able to finalise a bid," said Tew. "A new, commercially-focused board has been appointed by the NZRU to build on the great success the Chiefs enjoyed this year both on and off the field.
"The new six member board has been appointed for a six month period with four independent directors and two directors representing provincial unions."
The new board members are: Matthew Boyd, Jeremy Curragh, Dallas Fisher, Phil Harris, Brian King and Jon Mayson.
"Before we can consider a fresh bid, it is critical that the Franchise is operating effectively. We now have much improved governance arrangements in place to ensure the board can focus on making the best decisions in the interests of the Chiefs."
Key elements of agreement with Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership
• Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership is; 50 per cent of shares held by WRFU, and 50 per cent by private shareholders. The private shareholders are Cohiba Traders (represented by former Hurricanes chairperson, Paul Collins), ForsythMorison (former Hurricanes board member Liz Dawson and Colin Oldfield) and Welnix.
• The new board will be led by Brian Roche, current Chief Executive of NZ Post Group, former partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers and chairman of Rugby NZ 2011
• Other board members are; Paul Collins, Liz Dawson, Tony Duffin, Gareth Morgan, Garry Poole and Iain Potter
• An initial 3+5 year licence term, subject to termination rights for material changes to the competition from 2016 onwards
• The front of jersey and team naming properties will be available from 2016
Background on Investec Super Rugby Franchise Licences
The five Super Rugby Franchises are owned by the NZRU and are currently run by boards representing the provincial unions that make up each Super Rugby catchment. Reviews into the financial sustainability and structure of Super Rugby and Franchises identified the need to reinvigorate the Franchise model and provide for additional investment to improve its financial sustainability.
Expressions of interest were called for in December 2011 for four of the five licences. The Highlanders were not part of the process.
A Super Rugby Licensee's responsibilities will include:
• management of the team both on-field and off-field including, the professional development for members of the squad
• marketing promotion of matches and the team
• the Licensee will retain predominantly gate and some sponsorship income and pay administration, additional coaching and management staff, training facilities, match operations, and marketing costs
The NZRU will:
• retain ownership of the brands associated with each team
• continue to fund player and coach contracts from centralised broadcasting and sponsorship revenue
• continue to pay all travel and accommodation costs associated with the regular season (excluding playoffs) through SANZAR