New structure for Highlanders

The Highlanders franchise has agreed to change its governance and operation, which will include assistance and greater involvement from the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).

The changes will be implemented following a review of New Zealand's southern-most Super rugby franchise, given the financial difficulties it experienced in 2008-2009 and a projected financial shortfall for 2009-2010.

The NZRU will underwrite the financial performance of the Highlanders for the next two financial years.

A key outcome of the review is a restructuring of the Highlanders board.

Three independent directors will be appointed by the NZRU, one independent director by the Dunedin City Council and three directors by the provincial unions within the Highlanders region.

It will be regarded as a transition board for the next two years.

A new-look board will be required to assesss existing business strategies at the franchise and adopt a recovery plan.

The NZRU reserved the right to appoint a chairman at any time.

The Highlanders have been the least-successful New Zealand franchise in recent years.

They placed 10th in this year's Super 14 and haven't placed higher than seventh since last reaching the semifinals in 2002.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the changes announced today were intended to improve the on- and off-field performance of the Highlanders and ensure that the franchise was operating in a sustainable way.

"We recognise the importance of the Highlanders to rugby in the deep south, and to their many fans," Tew said.

"We are delighted that the Dunedin City Council has chosen to be involved and are also pleased with the response of the Highlanders board to the need for change."

Highlanders chairman Stuart McLauchlan said he welcomed the changes and was grateful for the continuing support of the NZRU.

"There is a clear desire from all parties involved to make this work," he said.


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