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Chiefs embark on new era off the field

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allblacks.com     10 Dec 2013     Getty Images

The licence holding entity will be known as Chiefs Rugby Club Limited Partnership and comprises unions from Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, King Country, Taranaki, Thames Valley and Waikato.

• Seven year licence awarded to new operator
• Includes six unions and private investors from Waikato and Taranaki
• Taranaki RFU joins Chiefs’ catchment, will host two matches

The unions hold 50 per cent of the shares in the Chiefs Rugby Club and private investors from Taranaki, Waikato and elsewhere; 50 per cent (see shareholding structure below). The shareholders have invested $3.3 million into the new enity.

“We are very pleased the Chiefs can now face the future with renewed confidence and build on the impressive on-field success the franchise has enjoyed of late,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew.

“The new arrangement injects fresh thinking and new capital to put the Chiefs on a sound commercial footing. We are also impressed with the calibre of the private investors who have decided to back the team. All this augers well for the long term financial well-being of the Chiefs.”

Taranaki Rugby Football Union will now transfer into the Chiefs region, after being a part of the Hurricanes franchise area since the inception of Investec Super Rugby.

This will see two competition matches played at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth in each of 2014 and 2015. Next season the Chiefs play there on 9 May against the Blues and again on 31 May when they take on the Waratahs.

Waikato Stadium will continue to host a minimum of five home matches per year. In 2014 six competition matches will be played in Hamilton. Match allocation beyond 2015 will be made on a year by year basis.

“We carefully weighed up the involvement of Taranaki Rugby in this and were mindful of some fans’ loyalty to the Hurricanes as well as some fans’ unease in Waikato,” said Tew. “However, on balance, and supported by fan research, we found this new arrangement would be broadly supported by fans in both regions.

“The good news for Taranaki is that fans get to enjoy rugby from the toughest and most exciting inter-regional rugby competition in the world. This taste of top class action, is not only good for fans, but will sure to inspire young players as well.”

Chiefs Chief Executive Andrew Flexman said; “This is an exciting new era for the Chiefs Rugby Club and we are privileged to have the backing of a diverse and committed group of investors who wish to share in the growth of our organisation.”

Taranaki RFU Chairman Lindsay Thomson said: “Taranaki Rugby is excited to have the opportunity to be an investor and stakeholder in the licence being issued to the new owners of the Chiefs. This gives an opportunity to the Taranaki rugby public to be able to watch regular Investec Super Rugby games at Yarrow Stadium, in what is the best professional rugby competition in the world. Having high quality games in our own back yard allows us to foster and grow the game in the Taranaki province”

Today’s announcement completes the process begun in December 2011 with licences now awarded to run four of the five Super Rugby franchises.

“Our aim all along was to build a stronger foundation for the professional game in this country while ensuring it maintained its ability to feed a winning All Blacks team so we are very pleased with the progress we have made in rolling out the new operating model,” said Tew.

New Zealand Rugby confirmed it was also looking closely at the possibility of embarking on a similar process for the Highlanders in 2014.

BACKGROUND

Chiefs licence shareholdings:

Provincial Unions:
Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union 11.55%
Waikato Rugby Union 11.55%
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union 11.55%
Taranaki Rugby Football Union 11.55%
Thames Valley Rugby Football Union 1.9%
King Country Rugby Football Union 1.9%

Private investors:
Waikato Syndicate 24.93%
Taranaki Syndicate 11.18%
Other 13.89%

An Establishment Board has been set up. This will be responsible for appointing the new board of seven members which will be comprised of five independent directors and two appointees representing investors. This process is expected to take two months.

Background on Investec Super Rugby franchise licences

The five Super Rugby franchises are owned by New Zealand Rugby and when originally set up, were 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

New Zealand Rugby 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