Christchurch council urged to back NRL bid

Te Kaha Stadium is set to be completed by April 2026. Photo: Supplied
Te Kaha Stadium is set to be completed by April 2026. Photo: Supplied
By Anna Sargent

A group bidding to get a Christchurch-based rugby league club in the National Rugby League says a professional team would bring in about $50 million to the city per season.

South Island NRL Bid Limited (SINRL) wants the Christchurch City Council to support its bid to develop a new club to join the Australian competition, which is planning to expand in coming years.

The team would play its home games at Ōtautahi's forthcoming multi-use Te Kaha Stadium, set to be completed by April 2026.

Former Canterbury Rugby League chairman Tony Kidd is leading the project, and its members include former Kiwis and Warriors coach Frank Endacott and former Christchurch East Labour MP Poto Williams.

SINRL made its case to the Christchurch City Council at a meeting on Tuesday.

Williams said having a Christchurch-based team in the NRL would support the development of the league across the South Island.

"One of the messages that's coming loud and clear is that: where are the pathways for our senior players? Where are the competitions for our senior teams? We want to be the catalyst for that to happen.

"We want to be the catalyst because we'll be driving more people to the game and we'll be driving a stronger fan base," she said.

Endacott told the council it was an exciting opportunity for the city.

"The pathways for our young people in Christchurch - they play rugby league here as kids and the good ones end up in Australia. It would mean they can stay here and play here," he said.

"What it would bring into this city - we envision around $50 million per season. An NRL franchise based here would bring worldwide interest and a lot of visitors."

Former New Zealand Rugby and NRL boss David Moffett is leading the 'South Island Kea' bid team - the rival South Island NRL bid facing off with SINRL in a pursuit to bring a professional rugby league operation to the mainland.

Moffett, who has also had stints in charge of Sport England and the Welsh Rugby Union, said his interest in a South Island-based NRL club dates back to 2012.

He said for every ticket sold the club would give a dollar to the Save the Kea Foundation.

Christchurch councillor James Gough asked SINRL why the group could not join forces with the rival bid to double the effort.

"At the last resort of it, if it comes down to that to get the franchise we would certainly look at anything I'm sure, but at the moment we feel as though we're strong enough to take this bid out ourselves," Endacott said.

SINRL said Moffett previously approached the group to be involved in the bid, but that it did not fit for both parties to be involved.

Williams said SINRL understood the NRL would offer a bid process shortly, in August potentially.

"If we were successful in this current iteration we would need to have a team ready to go in November next year, and then ready to be at the kick-off game at the stadium in 2026."