Rugby: No progress on privatisation plans

The Highlanders have made no progress on their privatisation plans as the team and management concentrate on the here and now.

The New Zealand Rugby Union said last week it had received five expressions of interest in the four New Zealand franchise licences it had put on the block.

The Highlanders were not included in that process, which was announced last year, as they were pursuing their own commercial arrangements.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said no progress had been made in those plans.

He said it was possible the Highlanders could become part of the NZRU process in selling off the licences but that was not happening at this stage.

Most of the expressions of interest lodged with the NZRU are believed to have come from provincial rugby unions wishing to maintain the franchise in the region.

The successful licence-holder will be able to manage the team both on and off the field, including professional development for members of the squad and promotion of matches and the team.

It can make money by holding team naming rights and conducting non-rugby activities.

The NZRU will maintain the ownership of the brands of all teams and will continue to be responsible for contracting players and coaches.

All costs currently met by the the NZRU and Sanzar will be retained by these two bodies.

The Highlanders have been through tough times in the past few years and the national union agreed to underwrite them for two years until 2011.

NZRU Steve Tew said last month the union had pumped $1.1 million into the Highlanders in that time to help the franchise out.

Clark said the team had been thrilled with the turn-out to the first two games, and the way the crowd had enjoyed Forsyth Barr Stadium.

A full house of about 22,500 had been to the match against the Crusaders while more than 17,500 had been to the game against the Waratahs last Saturday.

The Highlanders will not play at the stadium again until Easter, when they take on the Stormers on April 7. Clark did not mind games being spread out, as there was only so much money people could spend on attending games.

Before the next match at the new stadium, the team will play in Invercargill on March 30, against the Rebels.

Clark hoped for a big crowd in the South, as it was the only Super 15 game to be played at Rugby Park Stadium this year.



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